by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has urged governments at all levels and employers to take decisive actions to ensure a supportive breastfeeding environment for all working mothers in both the formal and informal sectors.
As the world marks World Breast-feeding Week (WBW), it expressed concern for the inadequate workplace breast-feeding policy in both public and private sectors of Nigeria.
This was contained in a statement issued to newsmen in Bauchi by Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, during the World Breast-feeding Week, with the theme: ‘A Lifeline for Children and Economies: The Urgent Call for Greater Breastfeeding Support Across All Workplaces,’ on Tuesday.
According to her, “Presently, women make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria; 95 per cent are within the informal sector, while the formal sector only employs 5 percent.”
She expressed shock that, “Only 9 percent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 percent in the public sector,” adding that, “Women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding.”
She acknowledged that although, Nigeria has made significant strides in the past two decades to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, more needs to be done.
According to her, only 7 out of 36 states provide six months’ fully-paid maternity leave and only 34 percent of children aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed as recommended by UNICEF presently.
The UNICEF Country Representative stressed that, Nigeria is still far from reaching the World Health Assembly 70 percent target by 2030, saying that, it was essential for government and businesses to provide necessary support to mothers and caregivers to facilitate progress.
“It is important to have policies that support breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave for six months, as well as paid paternity leave, flexible return-to-work options, regular lactation breaks during working hours and adequate facilities that enable mothers to continue exclusively breastfeeding for six months, followed by age-appropriate complementary feeding, while breastfeeding continues to two years and beyond,” she argued.
“Investing in breastfeeding supports policies and programs in all settings, especially during crises and, in food-insecure regions, are crucial to ensure the well-being of our children and the progress of our society.
“Let us collectively work towards a future where breastfeeding is supported and embraced by all, resulting in healthier generations and a thriving Nigerian workforce, and let’s make breastfeeding at work,” she noted.