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20,000 Nigerian Women Die Annually Due to Poor Breastfeeding

An estimated 20,000 women die every year in Nigeria due to poor breastfeeding, the federal government said Tuesday.

To this end, the government has recommended early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond and introduction of appropriate complementary food as from six months.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a media conference held in Abuja, to commemorate the 2020 Breastfeeding Week with the theme: "Support Breastfeeding for a healthier planet", reiterated the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for children.

Expressing the government's concern that an estimated 20,000 women die annually due to poor breastfeeding, the minister said the benefit of breastfeeding to both mother and baby had been well documented including giving babies stronger immunity and reducing risk of suffering many childhood illnesses and infections.

"It is also associated with longer-term health benefits including reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Studies have shown that obesity rates are 15-30 per cent lower in breastfed babies compared to formula-fed babies,"he said.

According to him,"The World Health Organization, in a series of Lancet publications on breastfeeding, reports that 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."

He added: "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. An estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding were practised."

He, however, regretted that despite the benefits, the breastfeeding indices in Nigeria had fallen below optimal.

He cited the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018, which indicated that 97 per cent of children were breastfed at one point or the other, while only 42 per cent are put to the breast within 1 hour of birth and the proportion of children 0 to 6 months who are exclusively breastfed stood a pt just 29 per cent.

According to him, as part of measures to increase optimal breastfeeding practices, the Federal Ministry of Health developed the national social and behavioural change strategy for infant and young child feeding.

Source: Vanguard


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