By ‘Dotun Akintomide
H.E Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, Special Adviser to the Independent Advisory Group of the World Health Organization Africa Regional Office has delivered a rallying call for Nigeria to reach its breastfeeding targets of 50% by 2025 to save millions of lives.
Mrs Saraki made the call during the World Breastfeeding Week to commemorate the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
The event which held in Abuja was officially flagged off by Prof. Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s Minister of Health and had in attendance Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, as well as representatives of the WHO, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a broad section of civil society and health professionals.
The Wife of the Nigeria’s Senate President, Mrs Saraki, who is also the Founder-President, Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) and the Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador, International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) was appointed to advise the WHO in Africa earlier in the year.
Represented by Mrs Amy Oyekunle, CEO of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Mrs Saraki called for greater action on breastfeeding in Nigeria in her goodwill message.
In her words: “The WHO recommends the commencement of exclusive breastfeeding within one hour after birth, and until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond. The campaign focus for the WHO during this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is the importance of helping mothers breastfeed their babies with the first hour of life. That crucial first hour is one which all mothers and healthcare professionals must hold to be of the utmost importance. The so-called ‘first vaccine’ of a baby is the goal: the first skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulates the production of breastmilk, including colostrum, which provides a rich dose of nutrients and antibodies.”
“For Nigeria to move forward, we must heed the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, but also adopt a multi-sectoral, partnerships-based approach.”
“The Wellbeing Foundation Africa is a proud partner of Alive and Thrive, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by FHI360. Alive & Thrive saves lives, prevents illness and ensures healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, through a four-pronged approach: policy and advocacy; interpersonal communication and community mobilization; mass communication; and strategic use of data.”
To mark World Breastfeeding Week, MamaCare midwives, who are at the heart of the work of the Wellbeing Foundation had led daily, events for expectant and new mothers across Lagos, Kwara, Osun and Abuja.
The midwives focused their sensitization message and training on the importance of breastfeeding and early initiation, the proper technique to do so and the overall benefits for mother and child.
Other events include a MamaCare midwife hosting a radio show in Abuja, answering questions from listeners on breastfeeding, and advocating for more support for breastfeeding across communities.