UNICEF advocates for 6 months maternity leave, breastfeeding support in Borno, Yobe

UNICEF North East Chief of Field Office Phuong Nguyen at a media briefing to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week in Maiduguri.
UNICEF North East Chief of Field Office Phuong Nguyen at a media briefing to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week in Maiduguri.
UNICEF advocates for 6 months maternity leave, breastfeeding support in Borno, Yobe

In a bid to promote maternal and child health, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is urging the governments of Borno and Yobe states to revise their maternity protection policies.

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UNICEF’s North East Chief of Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, called for an extension of the maternity leave to six months for working mothers during a media briefing commemorating the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week in Maiduguri.

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The call comes as children in North East Nigeria face significant nutrition challenges, potentially leading to long-term growth and developmental deficits.

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UNICEF emphasizes the importance of immediate breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life, as it acts as a “nutritional magic bullet” that protects infants from opportunistic infections and strengthens their fragile immunity.

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Startling statistics reveal that in Borno state, over 58 percent of newborns are not exclusively breastfed for six months, and over 75 percent of children in Yobe state lack the advantage of exclusive breastfeeding.

To address this issue, UNICEF is urging the provision of baby creches in all offices to enable working mothers in both the government and private sectors to breastfeed their infants adequately.

Phuong Nguyen underscores that early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, without offering water, are critical measures to safeguard children from life-threatening diseases and improve their overall wellbeing and learning abilities.

Additionally, she stresses the importance of implementing policies that support displaced mothers, ensuring they can sustain exclusive breastfeeding amidst challenging circumstances.

To achieve these goals, Nguyen calls for improved sensitization and enlightenment within communities and health facilities regarding the benefits of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding.

The UNICEF North East Chief believes that creating awareness about the significance of breastfeeding will empower mothers to make informed decisions about their children’s health.

The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebration is “Enabling breastfeeding: Making a difference for working parents.”

UNICEF’s advocacy focuses on supporting working mothers by extending maternity leave and ensuring they have the resources and facilities to breastfeed their babies effectively.

By extending maternity leave to six months, mothers will have sufficient time to bond with their infants, provide them with the essential nutrients needed for healthy development, and protect them from potential infections.

Furthermore, having baby creches in workplaces will enable working mothers to balance their professional responsibilities while fulfilling their crucial roles as caregivers.

In response to the alarming rates of non-exclusive breastfeeding in the region, the governments of Borno and Yobe states are urged to take immediate action in reviewing and enhancing their maternity protection policies.

These revisions will not only benefit the health and wellbeing of children but will also support the productivity and overall satisfaction of working mothers.

As UNICEF continues its efforts to advocate for maternal and child health, it remains committed to collaborating with government authorities, health facilities, and communities to implement effective policies and support mechanisms. Through collective action, the goal of ensuring every child’s right to proper nutrition, healthcare, and a healthy start in life can be achieved.

UNICEF’s call for an extension of maternity leave and the establishment of baby creches in offices in Borno and Yobe states is an essential step towards improving maternal and child health in the region.

By prioritizing exclusive breastfeeding and supporting working mothers, governments can positively impact the wellbeing and future of their citizens. As the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week unfolds, let us rally behind UNICEF’s advocacy and strive to make a lasting difference for working parents and their children in North East Nigeria.


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