The United Nations Children’s Fund in Borno has called for six-month paid maternity leave for female workers in the state to ensure that conflict-affected children are exclusively breastfed.
Phuong T. Nguyen, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Maiduguri, said this on Thursday during the flag-off ceremony of the World Breastfeeding Promotion Week in Maiduguri, Borno State. According to the humanitarian, exclusive breastfeeding is an opportunity for children as it provides them with higher brain power, concise reasoning ability, and stronger immunity to ward off diseases.
“Investments by families, communities, and governments in healthcare, protection, and education of children pay the most dividends for children exclusively breastfed for at least six months. UNICEF calls for an improvement on existing childcare policies in the public and private sectors and advocates for a six-month paid maternity leave in the workplace for new mothers,’’ she said.
Nguyen added, “We must improve on the 29 percent of Nigerian children between ages 0 and six months who are exclusively breastfed. Food insecurity and job loss are on the rise because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the disposable income of millions of families threatened, investments in breastmilk substitutes will further deplete scarce resources for struggling families. Supporting new mothers to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months is the best method of child nutrition in these critical times.’’
On her part, the Borno State First Lady, Dr. Falmata Zulum said the World Breastfeeding Promotion Week will galvanise action to protect and ensure the wellbeing of children. She urged women to breastfeed their newborns exclusively for at least six months and for two years.
“Breastfeeding is total food security for infants. It is readily available and helps mothers to bond with their children. Appropriate infant feeding can save lives. To me, breastfeeding is not just our obligation, it is a divine gift to babies and the world in the interest of humanity,’’ she said.
Also speaking at the event, the Borno State Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Mrs. Juliana Bitrus, said optimum breastfeeding practices require the support of women and legislators to be successful.
“Breastmilk contains the right components of nutrients that babies need to survive and develop. Exclusive breastfeeding is a form of family planning and it reduces the risk of cancer and diabetes in women. But it is important that we take this campaign to grassroots women and to our legislators here to make sure that there are laws that will support working-class women,’’ she said.