Breastfeeding is not nursing mothers’ responsibility alone; they need support of their husbands, family members, the community, health workers and government, Rukhsana Shareen, Nutrition Technical Officer, World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
The nutrition technical officer said this at the inauguration of World Breastfeeding Week in Maiduguri, organised by the UN, WHO and Borno Government on Friday.
Breastfeeding is an annual event aimed at promoting, protecting and supporting nursing mothers and their new babies.
“Breastfeeding plays a key role in newborns and child development. A child that is exclusively breastfed will live a healthy life as well as achieve full potential”, Shaereen said.
According to the WHO official, exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk of infections in babies and served as the first immunity for the child.
Mrs Hyelni Mshelia, Borno Director, Primary Health, who also spoke at the occasion said efforts were on in the state to sensitise nursing mothers on the importance of breastfeeding.
According to her, the state government, UN agencies and other NGOs are working toward the realisation of the objective of exclusive breastfeeding to ensure healthy babies and their mothers.
“We have increased our outreach for the Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) in the camps and host communities of Maiduguri. We have expanded our outpatient Therapeutic centres.
“Before we have very few centres but now, they have been increased to about 45.
“We have also established centres for children suffering from acute malnutrition”, she said.
Contributing, Abdi Farah, Head of Operations, World Food Programme (WFP), said the organisation had so far supported about 120,000 nursing women and children living in IDPs in the last six months.
Farah said that the nursing mothers were supported with nutritional foods to enable them produce enough breast milk to feed their babies.
Mr Geoffrey Ijumba, the UNICEF Chief, Borno Field Office, said mothers, especially those in the camps should be supported with appropriate counseling services.
The Permanent Secretary, Borno Ministry of Health, Dr Abubakar Hassan, said the week was an opportunity to engage all members of the community and show why breastfeeding was important.
Hassan said that partners working on child and maternal health and nutrition across North-East were reaching out to nursing mothers, families and communities to promote the practice of breastfeeding.
“In the North-East, the campaign holds particular significance as nearly 5.2 million people are food insecure and UNICEF’s projects indicated that up to 450,000 children will be affected by acute malnutrition”, said Hassan.
Our correspondent reports that the the theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Sustaining Exclusive Breastfeeding Together’ which will be observed globally from Aug.1 to 7.