Saliu ABUJA (Xinhua) -- Nigeria has launched a nationwide campaign to
scale up infant nutrition through breastfeeding. Apart from considering its
economic benefit, the vision of the West African country is to massively
advocate exclusive breastfeeding to measure up to the global target average rate
of at least 50 percent by 2025.
The nationwide campaign, tagged
“Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative,” was launched Tuesday as the
2017 World Breastfeeding Week kicked off throughout the globe
with “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” as its theme.
The health benefits of breastfeeding
are numerous but knowledge about the importance of exclusive
breastfeeding is quite low in the most populous African country.
According to the Nigerian ministry of
health, only about 25 percent of mothers in parts of Nigeria
know that newborns must be fed only breast milk in the first six
months of life.
Grace Mojekwu, head of the infant and
young child feeding/nutrition desk of the health ministry, told
Xinhua breast milk was the ideal food for every newborn.
Apart from reducing incidents of death
in newborns, she said breastfeeding is also believed to help in
the cognitive development of children, as they prove to do
better in school, and longer breastfeeding durations are
associated with higher scores on intelligence tests.
“We will intensify campaign on
exclusive breastfeeding and young child feeding practices in
health facilities, communities, workplaces as well as train
health care professionals,” the official said.
“The Nigerian government has a policy
that says nursing mothers should breast feed exclusively for six
months and thereafter, complementary feeding can be introduced
while breastfeeding is sustained for two years,” Mojekwu noted.
The level of exclusive breastfeeding
in Nigeria is only 17 percent.
According to the United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF), each year, at least 5.4 million
children in Nigeria miss out on the benefits of breastfeeding,
contributing to the country’s problem of chronic child
Also, 11 million children under age
five are currently malnourished in Nigeria.
UNICEF said the low rate of exclusive
breastfeeding leads to more than 100,000 child deaths and
translates into almost 12 billion US dollars in future economic
losses for the country.
Breast milk contains all the nutrients
and fluids a baby needs for the first six months of life.
Colostrum is a clear, thick and sticky
liquid produced by a mother’s mammary glands after a child’s
birth. Packed with natural antibodies and nutrients, it prevents
the child from infections, including gastrointestinal
Colostrum is produced in small
quantity for the first four days and then replaced with a
lighter and thinner liquid. It gives the baby a chance to fight
against bacteria, parasites, and disease causing pathogens.
There is an enormous misconception
that colostrum is dirty, but experts said it is not.
At the launch of the new nationwide
campaign by Nigeria, experts agreed breast milk is the critical
first vaccine for babies, as it gives the best protection they
can have against an array of illnesses and diseases such as
diarrhea and pneumonia, to mention a few.
About 74 percent of children who are
not exclusively breastfed are from families in the lowest income
group in Nigeria, according to UNICEF.
The government has outlined a number
of action plans which include demonstrating a political will to
support breastfeeding, regulating the breast milk substitute
industry, increasing public sector investment in breastfeeding
interventions, enacting policy interventions and scaling up,
monitoring breastfeeding and trends in breastfeeding practices,
among others, to reinforce a breastfeeding culture in the
Through the newly launched campaign,
the Nigerian government said it will also disseminate accurate
information on the value of breastfeeding as a powerful
intervention for health and economic development, benefiting
both children and women.
In line with the global target, the
country’s National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition aims to
increase breastfeeding rate to at least 50 percent by 2018, the
Going by the World Bank’s new
investment framework for nutrition, every dollar invested in
promoting breastfeeding can generate a return of 35 U.S. dollars
in economic benefits.