To address the issue, the United Nations health body welcomed the National Food and Nutrition Policy 2014- 2019 that has a strong exclusive breastfeeding component and urged the Federal Government to include a budget line for nutrition in the health sector budget and a timely release of budget for immediate programming.
UNICEF in a statement yesterday said approximately seven million children are born in Nigeria every year and, according to the 2014 National Nutrition and Health Survey, only 25 per cent are exclusively breastfed from zero to six months of age.
UNICEF Nigeria Chief of Nutrition, Arjan de Wagt, said: “We know that the pressure to give water to newborns in addition to breast milk is high. But the stomach of a baby is so small it can barely hold 60 milliliters of liquid and when it is filled with water, it leaves no room for breast milk and its life-sustaining nutrients.
“Babies who are fed nothing but breast milk from the moment they are born until they are six months old grow and develop better. Breast milk gives a child a head start in life and a chance to fight child malnutrition later in life.”
UNICEF, however, observed that Nigeria is making progress in exclusive breastfeeding very slowly.
“Over 10 years, Nigeria has increased its exclusive breastfeeding rate from 12 per cent to only 25 per cent. By comparison, in 1994, both Ghana and Nigeria had both exclusive breastfeeding rates of 7.4, but by 2013 Ghana had moved up to 63 per cent,” it noted.
UNICEF also commended the initiative of the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari that was announced in July to address child malnutrition and recommended that exclusive breastfeeding should be a strong component of her initiative.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Jean Gough, said: “Lack of exclusive breastfeeding is implicated in the current high rate of child malnutrition in Nigeria.”
By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
Source: The Guardian.ng