Umezurike who harped on the importance of breastmilk as a complete, natural nutritional source for infants, emphasized that it prevents many childhood diseases such as diarrhoea as well as has lifelong positive benefits associated with Child spacing, and prevention of hypertension.
According to him, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF’s recommendation for optimal infant and young child feeding practice lays emphasis to early invitation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond, while introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary solid foods can commence at the sixth month.
Umezurike said: “Breastmilk is complete; it is the first food that we consume, and it is a critical part of a sustainable food system.
“Moreover, breastmilk prevents many childhood diseases and has a lifelong positive benefits associated with Child spacing, risk reduction for some cancers (breast and ovarian), and hypertension.”
According to him, Ebonyi State government, in its efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding of the new born, grants a policy-backed four months fully paid maternity leave to nursing mothers.
Umezurike explained that apart from the paid maternity leave, the State government also has it as a policy to allow nursing mothers dismiss from work by 12 noon instead of the general dismissal time of 4 pm.
He added that the State government through the office of the wife of the Governor offers relief and assistance to poor and indigent nursing mothers to combat malnutrition which poses great challenge to adequate breastfeeding, among other policies.
The Health Commissioner who further noted that the State ranks first in Baby-frienly compliance rating, attributed the success to the health-friendly disposition of Governor David Umahi as well as the collaborative actions of the Ministry and its partners such as the Breakthrough Action -Nigeria.
Speaking on the year’s theme: “Supporting Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet, Umezurike decried the prevailing humanity’s destruction of nature occassioned by man’s current food production and consumption practices.
He noted that illegal and unsustainable wild life trade were affecting forests, degrading land and water ecosystems, leading to climate change.
Highlighting the link between breastfeeding and planetary health, he maintained that every step taken across humanity’s lifecycle to mitigate environmental degradation and climatic crises counts, and identified breastfeeding in particular and feeding in general as one pathway to mitigate environmental degradation.
Representatives of Breakthrough Action -Nigeria featured prominently in the event with other partners such as the Integrated Health Program(IHP).
World Breastfeeding week is observed between August 1 and 7, every year. This year’s celebration was devoid of the usual festivities owing to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.