Delta State Partnering UNICEF On Breastfeeding Campaign

BY ROS EMA RY NWAWAEBUNI
WORLD Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1st to 7th annually to improve the rate of breastfeeding by stepping up awareness on the importance of breast milk for the overall wellbeing of the child and that of the mother. It also serves as an ample time to dispel overriding myths which deter breastfeeding in several cultures.
The importance of breast milk to the survival and wellbeing of the child, mother and the society is so enormous that several countries of the world converged to articulate the many benefits of breast feeding and the need to sensitize and encourage every mother to breastfeed their babies adequately. This meeting which held in Florence, Italy August 1, 1990 on the protection, promotion and Support of breastfeeding gave rise to what is known as the INNOCENTI DECLARATION.
Following that historic declaration, the first week of August every year (1st to 7th) was set aside as the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). The idea was to celebrate the breast milk, considered a rare gift of nature from God to the women folk for the benefit of their babies and to promote the very act of breast feeding all over the world.
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) was also established in February 14, 1991 to promote the comprehensive breastfeeding culture worldwide by providing support in achieving the real goal. World Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 1992 by WABA and it is now observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF, WHO and their partners including individuals, organizations, and governments.
In order to emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children, experts in the medical profession recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and then supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year and up to two years or more. In her resolve to intensify this campaign, Delta State government, through the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (DSPHCDA) in collaboration with UNICEF River Field office, recently took the campaign for breastfeeding to the nook and crannies of the State. The programme which was a weeklong event, climaxed with Baby Show and lecture on Breastfeeding and Its Sustainability, held at Aniocha South Council Secretariat, Ogwashi-uku, Delta State.
The occasion which was chaired by the wife of the Council Chairman, Mrs. Favour Anwuzia witnessed a huge turnout of nursing mothers from within and outside the Local Government. She encouraged mothers to ensure their milk has the ideal nutrition, vitamin, protein and all that are needed for the protection of the child, she discoed that breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk of having asthma, ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses among others.
She noted that breastfed infants were more likely to gain the right weight rather than being overweight, adding that breastfeeding lowers the risk of diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.
The PHC coordinator of Aniocha South, Dr. Onyijeh Lawrence in his remark, welcomed mothers to the event and explained that the programme was a weeklong programme which will be rounded up with a baby show.
While admonishing mothers approach the baby show competition with the spirit of sportsmanship, Lawrence explained that breastfeeding was very important for the baby and mother as well as the society. He emphasized that part of this accounted for the reason Delta State government always promoted. He also encouraged mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months without baby food.
Taking mothers through the lecture on “Breastfeeding and its Sustainability”, Mr. James Okpoto who was before his retirement, the State’s Nutritionist, took the participating mothers down memory lane on how the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week started in 1992 by WABA.
He indicated that the 2017 WBW was aimed at initiating the breastfeeding supporters to be trained to provide support to mothers and babies in more effective ways; create awareness for the people to attend and expand the peer counseling programme by letting them know the effective and efficient benefits of the peer counseling; to call on the government to extend the maternity leave from the present 3 months to 6 months in order to increase the rate and duration of breastfeeding; and to discover the contacts of the neighbouring community support groups so that breastfeeding mothers can go to them and get help and support after delivery.
He revealed that the theme for 2017 world breastfeeding week is ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding Together’ and added that WBW celebrated its 25th year in 2017, with call on all those who were involved in breastfeeding support to work together for the common good, to attract backing and draw attention to the need for breastfeeding to be better supported in all areas.
“It is very necessary for the mothers to get timely support and health care education for their babies including breastfeeding”, he said.
Okpoto said that the continuous support and intimation can bring the gradual and permanent changes in the social living and ultimately healthy and disease free social living.
He said that to sustain a continuous breastfeeding can be traditionally supported by the family, community leaders, trained health workers, lactation consultants, friends and partners.
According to him, “The strategy of peer counseling can be a beneficial and exceedingly productive approach to disseminate the key message of breastfeeding campaign to a large number of people worldwide”.
“The trained person in the community can be a peer counselor which can support the mothers to combat their breastfeeding questions and issues”, he stated.
The PHC focal person, Mrs. Patricia Moemeke, while leading nursing mothers through exclusive breastfeeding songs, highlighted the importance of breastfeeding and the need to adhere strictly to every guideline for exclusive breastfeeding.
She noted that Delta State government always joined the world to celebrated WBW every August 1st to 7th adding that government in its wisdom decided to move the celebration of this year’s WBW to October and assured mothers that the process of selecting the winners of the baby show will be transparent as babies would be properly examined by the judges using the stipulated criteria and mothers fielding questions on their knowledge of exclusive breastfeeding as well as how far they have complied with exclusive breastfeeding guidelines.

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