Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Honourable Minister for Health

Exclusive breastfeeding can save 20,000 lives yearly as Nigeria considers FBI, says Minister

*Federal Ministry of Health considers guidelines on the Baby Friendly Initiative for baby friendly services ─Dr. Osagie Ehanire

*Babies denied breastfeeding suffer lower intelligence resulting about $302billion economic losses annually ─Sen. (Dr.) Olorunnimbe Mamora

*Risk of COVID-19 infection through breastfeeding is negligible, says WHO

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Health has said that lives of estimated 20,000 children would be saved if nursing mothers strictly observe six-month exclusive breastfeeding.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Honurable Minister for Health, stated that the Ministry is currently reviewing the national guidelines on the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI), which encompasses baby friendly services in the hospital, community and workplace.

The Minister, who disclosed this Tuesday, August 4, during the celebration of the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week, referenced a publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on breastfeeding.

It was gathered that the week-long programme is intended to create awareness and generate support for improved breastfeeding practices for good health and wellbeing outcomes for infants and young children.

The 2020 theme is: “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”, which focuses on the impact of proper infant feeding on the environment and to garner support for breastfeeding for the health of people and planet.

According to Dr. Ehanire, “scaling up breastfeeding practices to almost universal level could prevent an estimated 823,000 annual deaths, or 13·8 per cent of all deaths of children younger than 24 months.

“Breastfeeding also provides health benefits to mothers, by helping to prevent postpartum bleeding, support child spacing, lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and earlier return to pre-pregnancy body weight.

“Estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding were practiced,” he said.

He, however, decried a situation in which the breastfeeding indices in Nigeria are below optimal despite the benefits accruing from exclusive breastfeeding practice, report says.

The Minister said that the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2018 showed that 97 per cent of children were breastfed at one point or the other but only 42 percent were put to breast within an hour of birth while the proportion of children that had exclusively breastfeeding within their first six months was a mere 29 percent.

Senator (Dr.) Olorunnimbe Mamora, Honourable Minister of State for Health, also said that apart from being the most single cost-effective intervention for saving infant lives, improving the health, social and economic development of individuals, breastfeeding helps to lowers the risk of hypertension and diabetes.

Mamora said that babies that were denied breastfeeding would suffer lower intelligence that would result in economic losses of about $302 billion annually.

Nigeria has joined more than 170 countries to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week, a weeklong series of activities from August 1 to 7, every year.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says the risk of COVID-19 infection through breastfeeding is negligible and has never been documented.

Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Head of WHO’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit, stated this Tuesday, according to the United Nations (UN), according to agency report.

The UN quoted Grummer-Strawn as making the statement at a news briefing on the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week where he appealed for greater support for the practice.

This year’s event is coming amid warning by the WHO that lack of mother’s milk is linked to 820,000 child deaths a year, costing the global economy 300 billion dollars (N114 trillion).

“WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolute breastfeeding should continue.

“We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any (COVID-19) transmission through breastmilk,” Grummer-Strawn said.

He said exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother which far outweigh any risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the world health body, the advantages include the fact that breastmilk, including milk which is expressed, provides lifesaving antibodies that protect babies against many childhood illnesses.

“This is only one of the reasons why new mothers should initiate skin-to-skin contact and room-in with their babies quickly.

“The risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus from a COVID-positive mother to her baby seem to be extremely low.”

Grummer-Strawn explained that the conclusion followed the testing of the breastmilk of many mothers around the world in a variety of studies.

Although a few samples had the virus followup tests showed that the virus was not viable and could not be infective.

Additional reporting by Gbenga Kayode and Helen Omeghara

Kindly Share This Story