From: Femi Oyelola, kaduna
The Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigerian, (CS-SUNN) has mobilised religious and traditional leaders to promote optimal breastfeeding practices among nursing mothers and women of childbearing age in Kaduna State.
The religious and traditional leaders were mobilised in Kaduna during a one-day sensitisation meeting with key community gatekeepers, organised by CS-SUNN, on the importance of Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF).
Mr Silas Ideva, CS-SUNN Coordinator in the state, described religious and traditional leaders as “critical stakeholders” in ensuring adequate breastfeeding practices in communities.
Ideva said that the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 2017, showed that only 19.7 babies were exclusively breastfed in the state.
According to him, the low level of EBF practices in the state is contributing to the high prevalence of malnutrition in the state, with 48.1 per cent of children under- five years stunted.
“Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly, readily available and does not require any cost to prepare, yet encompasses huge economic benefits for the parents, communities and the nation.
“Breast milk makes children intelligent, sharp and strong being the first food they consume and contains all the nutrients and vitamins needed by the child.
“There is the need, therefore, to harness the benefits of breastfeeding to improve the health outcome of women and children in the state.”
He explained that the objective of the meeting was to educate the religious and traditional leaders, and other key community gatekeepers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to the growth and development of a child.
“It was also organised to discuss identified issues that have been preventing the practice of EBF in the state and how to tackle cultural and religious misconception about it.
“We equally want to secure commitments from the religious and traditional leaders to promote the practice of EBF in various spheres of influence in the state,” he said.
While playing a video entitled, “EBF, Changing the Nigerian Story”, Mr Isaac Dare-Oguntade, Project Assistant, CS-SUNN Abuja, said that optimal breastfeeding practices prevent the child from diseases and preventable deaths.
Dare-Oguntade stressed the need for community members, religious and traditional leaders to join the sensitisation campaign in ensuring that children were optimally breastfed to have a good start in life.
“Optimal brain development of a child largely depends on sufficient quantities of key nutrients during the first 1,000 days of life. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrients for infants,” he said.
The facilitator, Mr Ibrahim Azara, Executive Director, Vulnerable Welfare Promotion Trust, an NGO, said that mobilising the religious and traditional leaders was strategic to improving EBF practices.
According to him, the religious and traditional leaders are not only community gatekeepers, but also represent critical community influencers, opinion moulders and agents of change.
“At the family and community level, religious and traditional leaders have the power to raise awareness and influence attitudes, behaviours and practices and shape social values.