Nigeria: Exclusive Breastfeeding in Nigeria Is Only 29 Percent Says UNICEF, WHO

4 August 2021

Abuja — In commemoration of the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have berated the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria, which the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) put at 29 per cent rate.

The organisations noted that the 29 per cent remains significantly below the target of 50 per cent set by the World Health Assembly to be achieved in 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for 2030.

In a joint statement issued by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, and the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, they stated that the rate of excluding breastfeeding has risen from 17 per cent in 2013 to 29 per cent in 2018.

In the statement to mark the World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated globally in the first week of August with the theme: 'Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility', the statement said it was time to revisit the commitments made at the start of the year by prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.

It said: "While there has been a progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades-with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally-the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains.

"In many countries, the pandemic has caused significant disruptions in breastfeeding support services, while increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition."

It was further explained that the percentage of children who were breastfed within one hour of birth in Nigeria which is estimated to be 42 per cent remains less than 50 per cent.

"Breastfeeding rates in Nigeria reduced with age- 83 per cent of the children are breastfed up to one year, while 28 per cent are breastfeeding till two years. It was shown that the proportion of the children who are not breastfeeding increases with age.

"This year's World Breastfeeding Week with its theme is a time to revisit the commitments made at the start of this year by prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.

"Ensuring health care workers have the resources and information they need to effectively support mothers to breastfeed, including through global efforts such as the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, and guidelines on breastfeeding counselling.

"Ensuring employers allow women the time and space they need to breastfeed, including paid parental leave with longer maternity leave, safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace, access to affordable and quality childcare, as well as universal child benefits and adequate wages."

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