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 differenece 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 atleast two years.
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.
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.
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.