By Goodness Anenih, Abuja
The World Health Organisation WHO says initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a defense against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity.
The WHO Country Representative Dr. Walter Mulombo stated this on Monday at an event to flag off the 2021 World Breastfeeding week with the theme: Protect Breastfeeding: A shared responsibility.
He said the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants under six months of age globally is 40% adding that in Africa, nearly 70% of countries have high rates of continued breastfeeding at one year, compared to 28% in Nigeria.
Dr. Mulombi said while there has been progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades, with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains.
He further said this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is a time to revisit the commitments to prioritizing breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.
He called for support for expectant and nursing mothers in order for them to maintain their jobs during these stages for motherhood.
According to him, some of the rationale for shared responsibility include;
“The need to demonstrate commitments and shared responsibility towards improving breastfeeding by all stakeholders, Government, donors, civil society groups and private sector”
“To increase funding to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly Target to raise the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months to at least 50 percent”
To ensure the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is fully implemented by government, health workers and industry”
“To Enact family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies”
“Implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in maternity facilities”
“Improve access to skilled lactation counseling”
“Create monitoring systems that track the progress of policies, programs, and funds toward achieving both national and global breastfeeding targets”
Dr. Mulombo therefore reiterate WHO’s commitment to support and actively participate in the global campaign to raise awareness and galvanize action on themes related to breastfeeding.
He noted the links it has with survival, health and wellbeing of women, children and nations.