BY MARK ITSIBOR, Abuja |
In a rather worrisome development, findings have shown that Nigeria now spends an average of N6.93 billion on the treatment of various ailments associated with lack of optimum breastfeeding practices annually.
Motherless infants or those whose mothers cannot breastfeed due to childbirth – health challenges and children of working mothers are mostly affected, research on “Cost of not Breastfeeding” conducted by United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Alive & Thrive in Nigeria revealed.
Apart from that, Nigeria with the largest economy in Africa also spends N6.6 trillion ($21 billion) on importation and consumption of infant formula annually. That is an additional income that would have been generated for the economy if relevant steps were taken to ensure a wider practice of exclusive breastfeeding in the country.
After China, Nigeria is the second-largest market for infant formula in the world. A good number of parents rely on cereals and other infant formula products as substitutes for breastfeeding for their children, a situation experts say create health challenges for the children.
The research revealed that optimal breastfeeding practices in Nigeria has the potential to prevent 103,742 child death currently being experienced in the country.
The report that was exclusively obtained by our correspondent said as it stands, an average of 10 million cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia recorded annually from poor breastfeeding can be prevented if the issues responsible are addressed.
Women and children advocates have been clamouring for a national law to allow for an increase in the period of maternity leave from three to six months, to allow working mothers to adhere to the compulsory six months exclusive breastfeeding for their children.
According to the findings of the UNICEF and Alive & Thrive in Nigeria, if the right things are done to encourage exclusive breastfeeding, it has the potential of 4.1 per cent of Gross National Income (GDP) over children productive years.
Both nutrition-based agencies asserted that should Nigeria take deliberate steps to deal with lack of optimum breastfeeding as cost of breast milk substitute amounting to N11 billion ($38 million) would be eliminated.
In February this year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced a restriction of foreign exchange for milk importation to six companies in Nigeria to boost local production.
The CBN engaged some local manufacturers: FrieslandCampina WAPCO Nigeria, Chi Limited, TG Arla Dairy Product limited, Promasidor Nigeria, Nestle Nigeria and Integrated Dairies Limited.
The infant formula market in Nigeria is projected to reach N200 billion by 2030.
Recall that deputy director, food safety and applied directorate division of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mrs Eva Edwards had called for global support for breastfeeding for a healthier planet.
Edwards, at a webinar organised by the federal ministry of health in collaboration with the Arise and Thrive Initiative (ATI) to mark the World Breastfeeding Week 2020, warned that the growth in the infant market should be discouraged to avert its environmental challenges to society through waste and pollution.
Poor infant feeding practices negatively affect the growth, health and development of children, and a major cause of mortality in infants and young children, according to nutritionists.
It is believed that Nigeria can only bridge its dairy import if the federal government provides the needed infrastructure to drive investment and help cut the cost of production.