Nutrition Week: Exclusive breastfeeding has potential to save children from malnutrition- Minister

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By Joyce Remi – Babayeju

As Nigeria flags- off its weeklong Nutrition Week activities, the Minister of Women Affairs Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has said that exclusive breastfeeding has more potential to save more children lives than any other preventable intervention.

Abubakar disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the Ministerial press briefing to mark the 2018 Nigeria Nutrition Week.

She said, “Exclusive breastfeeding has the potential to save more children’s lives than any other preventive intervention”, adding that breastfed children have at least six chances of survival. However despite its benefits are our children are not being exclusively breastfed and the rate remains low and are also not given the appropriate food compliments for their growth, Abubakar lamented.

She noted that with the huge human social and economic cost incurred from malnutrition, the importance of giving more prominence to improved nutrition for our women and children is one of the great challenges to the total health and wellbeing.

According to her, Malnutrition in Nigeria is also linked to inaccessible to healthcare services in Nigeria, family planning services, inappropriate caring practices of our young children, and poor environment for young children, women during pregnancy through insufficient food and quality.

Other factors linked to malnutrition in Nigeria are the issues of Child marriage and teenage pregnancies which also plays risk in girls in the transmission of generational stunting child, who are not fully matured for growth.

She noted that such girls require extra nutrients for themselves for their growing foetuses. Women and children in early marriages have limited control on their incomes and household decisions, she added.

Founder of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus care Foundation of Nigeria, Mrs Olubunmi Lawal- Aiyedun in her presentation on Micronutrient deficiency in the 1000 day of life said that Nigeria ranks third globally in child mortality, due to malnutrition adding that the first 1000 day of life is the brain’s window of opportunity.

According to Lawal –Aiyedun, nutrition is an emergency in Nigeria and must be taken seriously by government.

Nutrition before conception prevents congenital deficiencies in pregnant women. Micronutrients are essential to reduce the risk of congenital complications in babies. Nutrition in 1000 days of life is critical, she emphasised.

Intake of folic acid is very very essential for women, she emphasised.

Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Budget and National Planning Mr Odewale who flagged- off the Nutrition Week on behalf of Senator Udo Udoma in a keynote address said that malnutrition is a silent killer and if not addressed can lead to death.

He said, in Nigeria 2.5 million children under -five years are affected by malnutrition and so must be taken seriously.

Investment in in nutrition prevents malnutrition and boosts productivity, he said.

Communications Officer, Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria, CS- SUNN , Lilian Ajah Mong in an interview with Nigerian Pilot said this year’s theme which is “Nutrition and Emergency” is focussing more of an emergency situation I from the statistics nutrition is still very low.

Ajah- Mong aid, “The government has done much over the years to address malnutrition. From the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS, it is discovered that the rate of malnutrition is still very high which is an emergency it means that it has to spur all the necessary stakeholders like government, Civil Society Organizations CSOs, healthcare providers to ensure that malnutrition is eradicated from Nigeria.”

“Increase in funding and releases from government, increased sensitization for women and children so all these put together will help Nigeria to adjust. We are saying that malnutrition has actually become an emergency in Nigeria that means we have to do something about it.

Going forward by the end of the nutrition week we expect that the relevant stakeholders will do better than what they are doing, to cut down the terrible statistics on malnutrition in Nigeria.” she explained.

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