By Peter Duru
Makurdi – As the world marks the 2019 World Breastfeeding Week, WBW, themed ‘Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding: Now and for the future’ the success story of Benue state attained through the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has obviously opened a vista in the fight against childhood killer diseases in the state.
BREASTFEEDING: Mothers breastfeeding their babies during an event to mark this year’s World Breastfeeding Week in Adeoye Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State. Inset is UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Ada Ezeogu.
Speaking on the successes recorded by the state with the support of the global body, the Benue state Nutrition Officer, Mrs. Regina Ijale disclosed that with the support of UNICEF, the state was able to achieve about 70 percent success level in its enlightenment campaign to have mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months before supplementary diet would be introduced.
According over time with the support of global organizations like the UNICEF, we have been consistently embarked on enlightenment campaigns on infant and young child feeding using support groups to drive the campaign in the rural communities in order to sensitize our women on the importance of breastfeeding and early initiation.
“So in all the health facilities we have entrusted the duty of giving health talks daily on the importance of breast feeding to mothers and the babies.
“The massage has been that immediately a child is born that child should be feed exclusively with breast milk for six months.
“In doing this we overtime enjoyed tremendous support from UNICEF and this accounted for the huge successes we have recorded across the state in that direction.
“It was that support from UNICEF that propelled our campaign which led to our attaining or reaching close to 70% success level.”
Mrs. Ijale also commended the roles being played by the Nutrition Focal Persons in the 23 local government areas of the state.
“They are more or less the grassroots personnel who contribute immensely to attaining the target of reaching expectant and nursing mothers with the massage of exclusive breastfeeding for babies and infants,” she added.
In Guma Local Government Area where a large contingent of Internally Displaced Persons are currently taking refuge in several camps located Daudu and Gbajimba the awareness campaign was led by the Nutrition Focal Person, Mrs Agnes Guma and her team of councilors to enlighten nursing and pregnant women the importance and benefits of breastfeeding to the babies.
Mrs. Guma who said the campaign had become a routine exercise in the area given the peculiar situation of the displaced persons and the need to sustain the campaign in the camps, infant mortality rates had reduced drastically in the camps because pregnant and nursing mothers had given heed to ensuring exclusive breastfeeding for their babies.
According to her, “as regards the IDPs camps where we have large number of pregnant and nursing mothers we do not wait for the Breastfeeding Week before properly educating mothers on what to do and how to go about breastfeeding their babies.
“Because of the importance of the exercise the enlightenment campaign is taking us to other towns in the local government including
Gbajimba, Agasha and Abinse.
“The emphasis of out talk as we visit this communities is on exclusive breastfeeding for six month after which supplementary diet would be introduced to the babies.
“So during antenatal care which we hold everyday Tuesdays and Thursdays we set aside time to properly educate the expectant mothers so that the moment they give birthday they know the next thing to do as far as feeding the baby is concerned.”
Continuing, Mrs. Guma said “we all know that their is no limit to the support anyone can get to drive a programme so we are appealing for more support to enable us sustain and even improve on the success so far attained or recorded in Guma local government area.
Also speaking on the importance the local government attaches to the issues of eradicating infant mortality through exclusive breastfeeding in the local government area and the camps located in the area, the Guma Local Government Caretaker Chairman, Mr. Anthony Shawon stated that he attached importance to the campaign because of the peculiar situation the local government had found itself.
“We have IDPs camps scattered around Guma so if we fail to ensure that pregnant and nursing mothers are well informed that exclusive breastfeeding is an important source of energy and nutrients in children aged between 6–23 months then we may have a bigger crisis in our hands.
“Aside ensuring the sustained campaigns in the IDPs we on our own have also ensured that working nursing mothers enjoy the exclusive benefit of always being excused to step out of their work place to any convenient location within the office premises to breast feed their babies.
“We all know that the benefits of breastfeeding the child are enormous and when the child is properly breastfed he enjoys protection from several childhood killer diseases. Hence on our part exclusive breastfeeding will continue to be a singsong for the people of Guma local government.
“So for me, this year’s World Breastfeeding Week themed ‘Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding: Now and for the future’ is more of a wake up call for everyone of us to ensure that the right things are done to empower our mothers in order to place them on a better stead to accomplish exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months because it has many benefits for the infant and the mother alike.
“It prevents infections like diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections and also reduces the infant mortality rate which used to be common in this our part of the world.
“We must therefore commend global organizations like the UNICEF for using their resources and reach to open the eyes of our people especially our rural dwellers on the inherent health benefits of breastfeeding.
“Their effort has to a large extent driven down rates of infant mortality unlike what obtained yesteryears before they stepped in to stem the tide of child and infant mortality in our communities.
“We are only urging them to sustained the tempo, save more lives and maker our world a better place.” Mr. Shawon added.