The Nigerian Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF) and other stakeholders on Tuesday called for the implementation of six months maternity leave policy to facilitate exclusive breastfeeding of infants in the country.
Dr Olufolake Abdulrazak, wife of the Kwara state governor, representing the NGWF, stated this during the launch and press briefing ceremony in commemoration of the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners in Abuja.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a difference for Working Parents.’’
Mrs Abdulrazak said the forum will partner with others to champion the advocacy, which will improve the health and wellbeing of the mother and child, as well as eliminate malnutrition in the country, thereby reducing child’s mortality rates.
She noted the challenges mothers face in navigating their work schedule and providing the best care for their children, stressing the need for implementation of policies that will ensure babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months and complementary fed 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 support and encourages this natural practice.
“In the NGWF, 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, timely release of funds for nutrition, she said the NWGF was committed towards creating awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, establishment of creches in workspaces and advocating for six months paid maternity leave.
On issue of prevalence of malaria, she disclosed that Kwara state went down to 20 per cent, which was lower than the 26 per cent at the national average level.
Dr Nemat Hajeebhoy, UNICEF’s Chief Nutrition Officer, said a child’s development is not completed at birth, but rather breastmilk facilitates the completion of the development, especially the brain.
Hajeebhoy, added that the Convention on the Child Rights, stipulates their rights to access to adequate nutrition, which begins at birth within the first hour of breastfeeding, which was essential as the first immunisation.
“It is the act of breastfeeding and the breast milk that enables the growth for babies. The child’s development is not completed at birth, it is the breastmilk that helps the completion especially in and brain development.
“So enabling mothers and babies to be together once the child is born is no longer in her womb is each of our responsibility,’’ she said.
She, explained that Nigeria had over 18 million employed women, but only nine per cent of the organisations offer breastfeeding support, hence the need for employers to implement policies that would promote breastfeeding.
“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.”
Also, Dr Walter Mulombo, Country Representative, World Health Organisation (WHO) said the 2023 WBW theme aim to raise awareness and galvanize action that enable breastfeeding in the workspace.
“Enabling breastfeeding and supporting working parents is crucial for promoting optimum breastfeeding practices and ensuring the health and wellbeing for 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.
Dr Osita Okonkwo, Country Director, Nutrition International, said the organisation with supports from partners in 2022 distributed over 20 million vitamin A across to states and has earmarked over 22 million to improve nutrition and reduce prevalence of child and maternal mortality.
Mr Adebiyi Folorunsho, Permanent Secretary, FMoH, while highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding, said only nine per cent of organisations in the country have workplace breastfeeding policy.
Folurunsho, represented by Mrs Boladale Alonge, Director in the ministry said breastfeeding provides energy, nutrients for child’s development and prevents the burden of malnutrition infectious diseases and mortality, while also reducing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases in later life.
He added that breastfeeding mothers are also protected them from chronic diseases including breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, as well as increase productivity at the workplace and saves monetary expenses.
“Evidence has shown that women need adequate time and support to practice optimal breastfeeding. Lack of support in the workplace is one of the reasons, why women stop breastfeeding early,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that representatives from the Federal Ministries of Women Affairs, Labour and Employment, Humanitarian Services, Disaster Management and Social Development, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), as well as other stakeholders were present at the event.
NAN reports that UNICEF said seven out of 36 states provide six months of fully paid maternity leave while only 34 per cent of children aged zero to six months are exclusively breastfed as recommended.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria