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Governors' Wives Push for Policies to Enhance Exclusive Breastfeeding

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The Nigerian Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF) is advocating for the implementation of six months of maternity leave to facilitate exclusive breastfeeding of infants in the country.

The wife of the Kwara state governor, Dr. Olufolake Abdulrazak, spoke for the forum at a launch event and news conference in Abuja to commemorate the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week.

Dr. Abdulrazak said the forum would work with willing partners to champion the advocacy and improve the health and well-being of mother and child.

The forum hopes the implementation of its advocacy would lead to the elimination of malnutrition and the reduction in child mortality rates in Nigeria.

Dr. Abdulrazak encouraged mothers to practice complementary breastfeeding up to at least two years.

"Breastfeeding plays an integral in the healthy development of infants and we must all come together to create an enabling environment that supports and encourages this natural practice," she said.

"At the Nigerian Governmors' Wives Forum, we are wholeheartedly dedicated to championing the cause of breastfeeding and improving the lives of women and children across our nation.

"We are proud to announce that we have taken a significant step forward by signing a statement of commitment to provide support through effective advocacies for improved nutrition in the country.’’

While advocating for realistic budgeting, and timely release of funds for nutrition, Dr. Abdulrazak said the NWGF was committed to creating awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, the establishment of creches in workspaces, and the implementation of six months of paid maternity leave.

In other remarks, The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Chief Nutrition Officer, Dr. Nemat Hajeebhoy disclosed that a child’s development is incomplete at birth.

He said breastmilk facilitates the completion of the development, especially the brain, adding that the Convention on Child Rights stipulates access to adequate nutrition, beginning at birth.

Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth is essential as the first immunization, he mentioned.

"It is the act of breastfeeding and the breast milk that enables the growth of babies. The child’s development is not completed at birth; it is the breastmilk that helps the completion, especially in brain development.

"So, enabling mothers and babies to be together once the child is born and is no longer in her womb is each of our responsibilities,’’ she said.

She explained that only nine percent of the organizations where 18 million Nigerian women are employed offer breastfeeding support.

"We are asking employers to offer six months maternity leave, set up safe spaces in the offices so that a mother can go and breastfeed her child and offer some flexible working arrangement.’’

The launch event was organized by the Federal Ministry of Health and its partners with the theme "Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents.’’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Dr. Walter Mulombo, praised the theme for its objective of raising awareness and galvanizing action to enable breastfeeding in the workplace.

"Enabling breastfeeding and supporting working parents is crucial for promoting optimum breastfeeding practices and ensuring the health and well-being of both infants and mothers.

"Support for breastfeeding increases women’s work motivation, attendance, satisfaction, and productivity.

"It also provides vital health and nutritional benefits for children with positive lifelong impacts. Women shouldn’t be left to choose between breastfeeding their children and their jobs," he said.

The Permanent Secretary of the health ministry, Adebiyi Folorunsho, was represented by a director in the ministry, Boladele Alonge, who acknowledged breastfeeding as providing energy, and nutrients for a child’s development; preventing malnutrition and infectious diseases; and reducing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases in later life.

He added that breastfeeding mothers are also protected from chronic diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.

They also experience increased productivity at work and save money on baby food.

World breastfeeding week is marked from 1 to 7 August every year.


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