•May Attain UN 2025 Target
By Chioma Umeha
If any zone in Nigeria would attain the United Nations global targets to improve maternal, infant and young child nutrition by 2025, the South West States is not far from taking the lead.
This is because the latest report of the Multiple Indicators Cluster (MIC) survey of 2016/2017 showed that there are sharp increase in the number of women breastfeeding their infants exclusively for six months.
The MIC survey is an international household survey on a wide range of indicators on situation of children and women.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) member States had in 2014 endorsed global targets for improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition and are committed to monitoring progress.
According to them the targets are vital for identifying priority areas for action and catalysing global change.
The global nutrition targets 2025 focuses on increasing the rate of exclusive (EBF) breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50 per cent.
It further aims at reducing the by 40 per cent the number of children under-five who are stunted.
It also targets to reduce by 50 per cent the incidence of anaemia in women of reproductive age.
Other areas targeted include; 30 per cent reduction in low birth weight, zero increase in childhood overweight and reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than five per cent.
Experts say exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is key to achieving these targets. In 2007, the South West could only boast of 17.1 per cent of exclusive breastfeeding rate. But, recent 2016/2017 MICS report showed an increased by over 200 per cent.
Today, the region has 43.9 per cent exclusive breastfeeding rate by mothers in 2016 and 2017 as against 17.1 per cent in 2007.
In the region, Osun had the highest percentage of exclusive breastfeeding rate with 55.3 per cent in 2017 followed by Lagos State with 51.8 per cent. Edo state increased from 11.9 per cent in 2007 to 27.1 per cent in 2017.
However, Ogun and Ondo States had the lowest percentages of exclusive breast feeding.
The MICS report showed that exclusive breastfeeding rate in Ogun was 23.1 per cent in 2007, 13.6 per cent in 2011 and 20.9 per cent in 2016 and 2017.
Also, Ondo State recorded 14.3 per cent of exclusive breastfeeding rate in 2007, 8.6 per cent in 2011 and 23.5 per cent for 2016 and 2017.
Confirming the reports, the Dr Niyi Olaleye, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, says the percentage of mothers in South-west and Edo engaging in exclusive breastfeeding for their infants under six months has improved over the years.
In the views of Mrs. Ada Ezeogu, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Akure Office, breastfeeding is one of the best investments in global health as every $1 invested in it generates $35 in economic returns.
For her, with the right policies and behavioural change of mothers and health workers, exclusive breastfeeding will soar up to 90 per cent in the country.
“The 50 per cent UN target is achievable in Nigeria because if you look at the pattern you will find out that most mothers in Nigeria is breastfeeding but the problem we have is that many of them give water.
“So if we can change their orientation on how to position and attach the baby to breast, provide them with the support they need at home and get them to understand that breast milk itself has over 88 percent water even in Nigeria climate where it can be pretty hot.
“The breast contains enough water for the baby. If we can just drop the water from zero to six months, we will indeed achieve much more than 50 per cent if not almost 90 per cent of EBF. We will then derive the benefit of breast feeding.
“Again, if 90 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for the first six months of life, we will derive 13 per cent reduction in infant mortality.
“We need to change the norm of breastfeeding in Nigeria. EBF has the potential to save more children’s lives than any other preventive intervention.
“Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. And an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child.
Ezeogu also explained that another strategy to achieve the UN target was by enforcing the BreastMilk Code. Lamenting non implementation of the code, she stressed the need for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, charged with enforcement of the Code to go in and enforce the code.
Ezeogu explained that aggressive marketing by infant formula companies, non-enforcement of the Code of Marketing of BMS are currently posing a barrier to the campaign.
The Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes aims to shield breastfeeding from commercial promotion that affects mothers, health workers and health care systems. All forms of product advertising and promotion are prohibited.
Mothers should not be given free product samples and promotional devices such as discounts.
The UNICEF Nutrition Specialist stressed the need to build the skills of health workers who engage women on daily basis to be able to teach them how to breastfeed and why they should not give water until after six months.
“Knowledge is dynamic and they should be retrained. There is also the need to support these mothers. Usually there are a lot of pressures from grandparents who did not do exclusive breastfeeding that is why there is need for social mobilisation of the community to understand benefit of EBF and to encourage community members to do that.”
The UNICEF Nutrition Specialist also called for a holistic budget line for nutrition that would cover all aspect of nutrition because after breastfeeding the child will go to complementary feeding and adequate feeding for all.
On the benefits of breastfeeding, Ezeogu advised mothers to ensure that their newborns are put to breast within an hour of delivery as well as ensure that the baby is fed with the first milk they produces known as Colostrum. According to her, colostrum serves as the baby’s first immunisation and contains antibodies that can protect against allergy & infection, many white cells – protects against infection, purgative that can clear meconium, helps to prevent jaundice, rich in Vitamin A among others.
Dissuading mothers from artificial feeding, she said it interferes with bonding, causes persistent diarrhoea, frequent respiratory infections, malnutrition; Vitamin A deficiency, milk intolerance, increased risk of some adult on set of chronic diseases. lower scores on intelligence tests, increases risk of anaemia, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer in mothers.