ASABA/Nigeria: Mothers have been called upon to practice exclusive breast feeding in the first six months of life of their babies in order to guide against malnutrition that has become a source of public health concern in the state.
The Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, made the call during the activities that marked the end of the 2018 World Breast Feeding Week celebration in Asaba.
Dr Ononye said that exclusive breast feeding in the first six months of life and the introduction of adequate complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond were major child survival strategies adopted globally to combat all forms of malnutrition.
The Commissioner who referred to the Year 2016 Multi Indicator Cluster Survey said that there was a high rate of stunted children under the age of five years with 43.6% classified as stunted, 10.8%, wasted, 31.5% underweight and only 23.7% were exclusively breast fed which was poor indices for Nigeria.
He stressed the need for the protection, promotion and support of breast feeding in its entire ramification failing which the poor indices that were being recorded would persist or even worsen in the near future.
However, to address the poor indices, Dr Ononye revealed that Delta State in collaboration with UNICEF had established breast feeding support groups in 11 Local Government Areas of the State with over 800 women as members.
He added that government had distributed information, education and communication (IEC) materials on breastfeeding to pregnant women and nursing mothers with children 0 to 24 months, saying it was a critical irreversible window period of the first 1,000 days of babies.
Dr Ononye reiterated government’s commitment at reducing infant morbidity and mortality through various child health care programme initiatives such as immunization, vitamin A supplement and free under-5 treatment.
The Commissioner who said that the theme of this year’s celebration was “Breast Feeding: Foundation of Life” revealed that there were several benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the mother, child and the nation at large.
While noting that exclusive breastfeeding could not be over emphasized, he stated that early initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth had saved over a million children in world.
Activities carried out to mark the Week included visitation and breastfeeding lectures at major public hospitals during antenatal visits; television and radio discussions; and baby show competition and award of prizes.