As the world observes World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Cristian Munduate, issued a call to action. She emphasizes the need for federal and state governments, along with employers, to take bold and definitive steps in creating a supportive breastfeeding environment for all working mothers, whether in formal or informal sectors.
Munduate underlines the impact of enhanced breastfeeding practices on child survival in Nigeria, stressing that over 100,000 young lives could be saved annually. She also noted that the benefits of adequate breastfeeding extend beyond mere statistics, as it can lead to substantial financial savings. A staggering US$22 million could be saved in healthcare treatment costs. It can also generate US$21 billion for the economy by boosting cognitive capacity and averting mortality in early childhood.
While observing the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week, Munduate, yesterday, revealed the global implications of boosting exclusive breastfeeding rates, while making her remark. She disclosed that elevating these rates could lead to the preservation of 820,000 young lives annually, all children under the age of five. It can also generate an additional income of US$302 billion.
She noted that there is evidence that for every 1000 Naira directed toward breastfeeding, there can be an estimated 35,000 Naira in economic returns
Munduate raised concerns about the existing gaps in maternity leave and breastfeeding practices in Nigeria. She disclosed that only 7 out of the 36 states currently offer a full six months of paid maternity leave, and a mere 34 percent of children aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed in accordance with UNICEF recommendations adding that Nigeria is still far from reaching the World Health Assembly 70 percent target by 2030.
She said, ”It is imperative to highlight the significance of breastfeeding for the health and well-being of children, mothers, and society at large. Breastmilk is the first vaccine and the first food that every child receives at birth. Breastfeeding stands as a crucial pillar in safeguarding infants against life-threatening infections, supporting optimal brain development in children, and reducing the incidence of chronic childhood and maternal illnesses, ultimately lowering healthcare costs. Breastmilk is not just a super-food and vaccine, it is also a smart investment”.
‘While I acknowledge significant strides made in the past two decades in Nigeria to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, it remains evident that more needs to be done.
‘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 5 per cent. Shockingly, only 9 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.”
According to her, ensuring the well-being of our children and the progress of our society can be achieved by investing in breastfeeding support initiatives.