Nigeria may not meet 70% exclusive breastfeeding coverage by 2030 —UNICEF

By Williams Ago, Gombe

The United Nations Children' Fund (UNICEF) has called on the Nigerian government to put in concerted efforts aimed at reaching the World Health Assembly's 70 per cent target of exclusive breastfeeding for zero to five years children by the year 2030.

A statement by Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, marking the 2023 breastfeeding week, says more needs to be done despite significant increase on exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria in the last two decades.

According to the statement made available to to our correspondent in Gombe, only seven out of the 36 States of Nigeria provides six months fully paid maternity leave and only 34 per cent of children aged zero to six months are exclusively breastfed as recommended by UNICEF.

It warned that, "Nigeria is still far from reaching the World Health Assembly 70 per cent target by 2030.” August 01 to 10 every year is therefore dedicated to help countries to focus their attention more on exclusive breastfeeding for children aged zero to six months.

According to Cristian Munduate, "presently, women make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria, 95 per cent are within the informal sector, while the formal sector only employs five per cent. Shockingly, only nine per cent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector. Women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding".

It advised that to facilitate progress, it is essential for government and businesses to play their part by providing the necessary support to mothers and caregivers.

It said, "It is important to have policies that supports breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave, flexible return-to-work options, regular lactation breaks during working hours and adequate facilities that enable to continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by age appropriate complimentary feeding while breastfeeding continues to two years and beyond.”

It also advised governments to invest in breastfeeding support policies and programmes in all settings, especially during crises and in food insecure regions. It is crucial to ensure the well being of children and the progress of the society.

"Let us collectively work towards a future where breastfeeding is supported and embraced by all, resulting in healthier generations and a thriving Nigeria workforce,” the statement concluded.

UNICEF reports that, "breast milk is not just a super food and vaccine, it is also a smart investment. Global analysis reveals that elevating rates of exclusive breastfeeding could not save the lives of an austounding 820 children under the age of five annually, generating an additional income of US$302 billion.

"In Nigeria, improved breastfeeding policies could save over 100,000 children's lives each year, save US$22 million in health care treatment cost related to inadequate breastfeeding, and generate an additional US$21 billion for the economy over children's productive years by increasing cognitive capacity and preventing premature mortality in the early years.

"There is evidence today that every #1000 invested in supporting breastfeeding can yield an estimated #35,000 in economic returns for Nigeria".

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