The Chief Executive Officer of a non governmental organisation, known as Afribaby, Dr. Odion Oscar Odiboh, in a chat with FLORENCE UDOH, is canvassing for a six months maternity leave for women. He disclosed that his organisation has sent a bill to the National Assembly to pursue the cause of compulsory six months maternity leave for nursing mothers. He also spoke on the concept of Afribaby.
What is the Afribaby concept?
The concept of Afribaby is to create synergy, coordination, and connectivity between all organizations, institutions, companies that have one thing or the other to do with babies to put in the front burner issues that concern the welfare and well-being of our babies. Ensure that different organizations cooperate and support themselves, ultimately, our babies will be the beneficiaries of such cooperation because we have a scenario where infant mortality and even, maternal mortality is very high right now in Nigeria and Nigeria is still very far, lagging behind, in its strides to achieve the MDGs of reducing infant mortality by 50 percent by 2015. There’s no doubt about that.
We’re doing this because; there isn’t the right atmosphere or connectivity between different organizations doing different things for babies. We have baby-friendly hospitals where there are pediatricians who’re doing their best in their own enclave. We have orphanages that are picking up and taking care of motherless babies. You have banks that have products for newborn babies. There’re crèches that take care of babies in the absence of their mothers, particularly, daycare centers, but all these different sector do not have a common meeting forum to rub minds together and exchange ideas, but with our AFRIBABY which started 3 years ago, there is synergy now among these different organizations .
We have even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are advocating on baby matters, we have pharmaceutical companies producing drugs for babies. So, all these organizations work separately but there’s no connection between them. They cannot even help themselves when they need help r the expertise of the other. So, the idea of Afribaby is to bring them together so that they can harness fully, what each has to offer and ultimately, help our babies and humanity.
What mothers gained at the 3 days symposium
If you look at the concept of Afribaby, it concerns mothers, fathers, babies and our society. Part of the content of Afribaby is education and enlightenment. In this symposium , we have dealt with matters that are very crucial such as issues on breastfeeding, career development for women and how to maintain balance in the home front while pursuing career and coping with the demands of motherhood. These days, we have majority of mothers that are also working; they’re assisting their husbands to contribute to their wellbeing. These mothers need to know how to create a good balance in all these so that no area suffers especially the area of taking adequate care of the babies.
Talking about maternity leave, the law grants only three months. But, federal Ministry of Health – the state government, the medical community, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF are saying six months exclusive breastfeeding. So, how do you reconcile this? This issue is was what we are trashing at this our 3rd symposium . If they government bodies at Federal Ministry of Health are saying that mothers should have exclusive breastfeeding for six moths, they should provide enabling environment for them to be able to do so. That is, make the maternity leave, six months.
If they’re not able to do so, all of that is mere policy summersault. Its mere talk. So, these are the areas where mothers stand to gain. We want to encourage adequate breastfeeding because well breast-fed babies have a higher mental development and their immune system is very high and as such they hardly fail sick .
For the fathers, they are very important in the home indeed. So, we use this symposium opportunity to drum our message about exclusive breastfeeding because you cannot have exclusive breastfeeding when the father does not support the woman –help with finances, house chores, and other things that could take away the woman’s attention from breastfeeding.
What is all this talk about nannies’ training?
Part of the Afribaby project is to train nannies. Now, let me quickly run through the projects. First, we have the symposium, which deals with the issue as they arise. Then, you have nannies training. The nannies training is meant to modernize our nannies, to help them to have latest knowledge about care giving. And to help change some of the terrible things we have witnessed in the business of care giving.
For instance, you give your baby to a caregiver, because you have to go to work; we have discovered that in some cases, some nannies, not all of them; give pill to the babies so they can sleep off. And this is very, very dangerous. When this is done again and again - and the parents are not even aware of a thing like this; what happens? After a while, the baby begins to become abnormal. And you begin to wonder, why is my baby behaving abnormally. You wouldn’t know it was as result of what has been done to that baby at the care centre, under the care of the nanny.
Again, some of these nannies or day care centres hire out these babies for alms begging. And the parents do not know. You’d be at work, thinking that everything is well or that your baby is safe. But, something can go wrong. Now, we want to sensitize nannies on these problems. We want to change this habit and ensue that care giving is given appropriately.
In what ways does Afribaby hope to promotes Infant and even maternal survival in Nigeria?
Unlike babies in developed countries, many babies in Nigeria suffer undernourishment, malnutrition, insufficiencies, inadequate attention and insecurity right from birth.
That is why we at Afribaby advocates always that all hands should be on deck to reduce the rising rates of maternal and child deaths, and we do this through seminars we hold periodically, Radio Talk shows, Television talk shows, this Annual Symposuim/Exhibition ,we also have a health magazine we publish quarterly that is focusing on guidelines for taking adequate care of our babies .
Fears have been expressed by health analysts that Nigeria may not meet the MDG targets even as recent UN reports , that the nation has only achieved only 32 per cent reduction of infant mortality less than five years to 2015.
Developed countries are working hard to ensure babies live to adulthood and I want to believe that we can do better in Nigeria and eventually Africa as a continent . We must put a stop to infant mortality now.
The Afribaby concept is a new approach and first of its kind to address problems of child care in Nigeria and Africa at large. We chose that name AFIBABY meaning African Babies because in a few years time, we intend to carry our campaign of infant survival and well-being to all over AFRICA as a Continent. There is urgent need for policy change in Nigeria here and other developing African nations concerning infant survival and well-being.
We emphasize exclusive breast feeding a lot because even WHO has proven with scientific research that it increases bonding between a mother and the child and stabilises a baby psychologically. If we do not treat all our babies right at infancy , it is the nation that will pay for it in the future through the cost of catering for a group of dysfunctional adults.