UNICEF engages journalists to promote exclusive breastfeeding in Northern Nigeria

A mother breastfeeding her baby

By Williams Ago, Gombe

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has engaged journalists from Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa Bauchi and Plateau States on a two-day brainstorming session on instilling the culture of exclusive breastfeeding by nursing mothers in the region.

The region has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country due to malnutrition. Exclusive breastfeeding of children from birth to six months is said to be one of the greatest safeguards for infants against life threatening infections as well as affords optimal brain development, which most mothers avoid.

UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office therefore used the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week to engage journalists from the five States in a two-day session that also aimed to bring public and political attention to the importance of breastfeeding.

Dr. Tushar Rane, Chief Field Officer, UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office at the commencement of the two-day activity held at Jamil Hotel, Azare, Bauchi State, said one of the greatest challenges faced by nursing mothers is the absence of safe work space for women to comfortably breastfeed their babies.

He said, this year’s WBW brings attention to workplace breastfeeding. Women, he noted, make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria. 

According to him, 95 per cent of these women are within the informal sector, while the formal sector only employs five per cent and shockingly, only nine per cent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector. He added that, women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding.

He said, "work place challenges to breastfeeding are one of the primary factors responsible for early cessation of breastfeeding. Women require sufficient time and support to breastfeed successfully. For working mothers, juggling between tasks and breastfeeding may be nearly often impossible.

"Nigeria currently implements two maternity entitlement provisions. The first, which is recognized at all levels of public service and codified in the Nigerian Labour Act, provides up to 12 weeks of maternity leave with at least 50% of salary and, upon return to work, half an hour twice a day during working hours to breastfeed. 

"The second, recently adopted by the Federal Public Service and yet to be ratified by the states and local government civil service, is a 16-week maternity leave provision with full pay and two hours off each day to breastfeed up to six months after the employee resumes duty," he stated.

He therefore called on government and employers to provide the needed assistance for mothers and caregivers, including those in the informal sector or on temporary contracts to conveniently breastfeed or support breastfeeding. 

"We must promote policies that encourage breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave for six months, as well as paid paternity leave, flexible return-to-work options, regular lactation breaks during working hours and adequate facilities that enable mothers to continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months. 

"When working parents and caregivers have sufficient paid leave, they can meet the essential nutritional needs of their young children, he stressed.

Dr. Rane also Advocated for family-friendly workplace policies such as paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks, and a room where mothers can breastfeed, or express milk. All these, he said, are also a win for employers. 

"These approaches generate economic returns by reducing maternity-related absenteeism, increasing the retention of female workers, and reducing the costs of hiring and training new staff.

"Remember, babies who are not breastfed are 14 times more likely to die before they reach their first birthday than babies who are exclusively breastfed,” he warned.

After the the brainstorming session on the first day, the journalists were taken for a field work in some selected areas of the town where they met and interacted with some women and stakeholders in the communities on the second day.
Share on Google Plus

About Newsmart


Post a Comment