A week-long event starting from August 1st to the 8th has been earmarked every year to celebrate World Breast Feeding Week.
The week provides an opportunity to restate the critical role of breastfeeding in reducing child mortality and issues that promote child nutrition and development are reinforced.
Incidentally too, this year marks the 20th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week. The 2008 Lancet Nutrition Series highlighted the remarkable fact that a non-breastfed child is 14 times more likely to die in the first six months than an exclusively breastfed child. Breast milk meets a baby’s complete nutritional requirements and is one of the best values among investments in child survival as the primary cost is the mother’s nutrition.
Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as giving no other food or drink – not even water – except breast milk. It does, however, allow the infant to receive oral rehydration salts (ORS), drops and syrups (vitamins, minerals and medicines). Breast milk is the ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. It’s also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.
Under-nutrition is associated with 35% of the disease burden for children under five. Infant and young child feeding is a key area to improve child survival and promote healthy growth and development.
But despite the compelling evidence that exclusive breastfeeding prevents diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia that kill millions of children every year, global rates of breastfeeding have remained relatively stagnant in the developing world, growing from 32 per cent in 1995 to 39 per cent in 2010.
This is in spite of the campaigns that have been mounted in successive years for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children.
In a press statement by the United Nations Children Fund’s (UNICEF) Communications Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, he noted that while exclusive breastfeeding rate is on the increase globally and in Sub Saharan Africa, but in Nigeria, it is actually on the decline.
According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2008, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding decreased from 17% in 2003 to 13% in 2008.
Now, if I may ask, what is so burdensome in breastfeeding one’s child for six months with all the gains inherent?
Or we should practically hold a gun to their heads first before the task can be done?
Many people don’ value or appreciate anything that are so freely given and cheaply too. With two case scenarios playing in mind my, I am wont to believe too.
Now, take the issue of the wild polio vaccine. Every year, the federal government budgets and spends huge sums of money procuring these vaccines for the well-being of our future generation, but what do we have in return? Those who ought to welcome the gesture with open arms are rejecting it, turning round to say a resounding NO. Like a dog sniffing around, they are wondering why the federal government is offering them a Greek Gift when nothing, according to them, ever comes free especially in this country.
So what have we continued to have? Pockets of rejection from these set of people who continue to treat government’s largesse with suspicion. It does not matter even if their children get afflicted with the debilitating wild polio virus in the process. When one goes to the field for monitoring, you find cases of non- compliances and when you ask the reason, they tell you; no felt need.
The same applies to TB where Nigeria ranks 4th in the world. Though the federal government is giving free treatment, people with the disease are still not accessing care and so what do we have?
Yet, its these set of people that keep complaining that government is not doing enough.
Any wonder we bear the greatest diseases burden. We still battle with vaccine-preventable diseases which other countries around us have succeeded in eradicating.
The truth is that our attitude has continued to hamper our progress and keep us where we are till date. Not until we change, we are going to remain stagnant and far behind the comity of nations.