Rivers State Government on Thursday promised to partner with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to encourage breastfeeding.
Mr Princewill Chike, the State’s Commissioner for Health, made the pledge in Port Harcourtat at a media briefing to flag off children’s breastfeeding programme by Justice Suzette Wike, the wife of Rivers Governor.
According to him, the partnership will be in the context of global infant and young child feeding strategy.
Chike said that investment in breastfeeding could save up to half a million of children’s lives in the next 10 years.
According to him, rising cases of malnutrition in Nigeria have become a major concern and called for urgent steps to reverse the trend.
Chike said that breastfeeding was the first vaccine in life for babies and immediately they were born.
“You will recall that breastfeeding is a significant exercise of providing every child with healthiest start to life.
“It is estimated that investment in breastfeeding can save up to half a million of children’s lives in the next 10 years.
“It is the a smart investment in the health of children and the wealth of the nation.
“Recent study by the World Bank relates that every $1 invested in interventions to support breastfeeding generates as much as $35 in the economic returns for the community,” he said.
He said that State Government would partner with UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) in breastfeeding advocacy initiative (BAI) to foster the global breastfeeding collective.
Chike said the collective comprised of 20 prominent international agencies and non-governmental organisations.
He said the partnership was aimed at achieving exclusive breastfeeding in at least 50 per cent for children by 2025.
The Commissioner called on media practitioners and other well meaning Nigerians to join in the advocacy for exclusive breastfeeding.
Mr Wilboard Ngambi, the Chief of Rivers Field Office of UNICEF, also said that most babies were not breastfed exclusively in the South South.
Ngambi stated that breastfeeding was not just a one-woman-job but rather required encouragement and support from skilled counsellors, family members, health care providers, employers, policymakers among others.
He said that the launch of the breastfeeding collective in Rivers by the governor’s wife would take place on April 27.
According to him, the event will highlight the critical importance of investing in breastfeeding programme and supporting women to breastfeed.
He said that UNICEF would partner with state government to support women in breastfeeding and protect health and well being of future generations.
“Together we can support women to breastfeed and protect health and well being of future generation,” he said.
Ngambi noted that the event would attract media attention and raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding to maternal, newborn and child development among others.
Mrs Ukel Oyaghiri, the State Commissioner for Women Affairs also said that the Ministry would be at forefront to partner with UNICEF and WHO to support women in exclusive breastfeeding.
Oyaghiri urged women to allow their babies to get adequate breast milk to help them grow, adding that exclusive breastfeeding allows mother and child bond.