Nigeria is among three countries contributing 236,000 deaths yearly from inadequate breastfeeding.
Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Akure, Tejinder Sadhu, who disclosed this in Ibadan, Oyo State at the weekend, said the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breast feeding in China, Nigeria and Mexico is almost $119 billion per year.
Sadhu spoke at a media dialogue on breast feeding organised by UNICEF in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
The workshop, which took place from August 3 to 4, was funded by the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID).
According to Sadhu, breastfeeding benefits national economy, by helping lower health care cost, increase educational attainment and ultimately boost activity. He said: “Indeed, breast feeding is one of the most cost-effective investments available.
“Every dollar invested in supporting breast feeding generates an estimated $35 in economic returns across lower and middle income countries.
“By contrast, low breast feeding rates translates into billions of dollars’ worth of lost productivity and health care cost to treat preventable illnesses and chronic diseases.”
Sadhu said breastfeeding is not for one woman alone to achieve because mothers need assistance and support from their health care providers, families, employers, communities and government so that they can provide their children the healthiest start to life.
“Together, we can support them into breastfeeding so as to protect the well-being of future generations,” he asserted.
In a good will message, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said there is need for the media and others to rise up for the propagation of breastfeeding information in order to boost its uptake.
Mohammed, who was represented by Olumide Osanyin Peju, an assistant director at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said there is need for all to rise up for the propagation, adding that breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death. “As you know, government alone cannot fight this cause, hence, the need to collaborate with agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), partners and organisations to advocate on how best to address the issue.”
While urging media practitioners to advocate the uptake of breastfeeding, Mohammed said: “Through your writings, features and commentaries, you can influence community and religious leaders to support health service utilisation by constantly reiterating to their community and congregants that breastfeeding helps in the cognitive development and higher intelligent quotients of children.”
He added: “Breastfeeding will improve the health of our children and greatly benefit the community.”
The Minister of Information and Culture said journalists should use their various media platforms to increase the knowledge of breastfeeding among nursing mothers as this will likely improve their ability to guide against diarrhoea, pneumonia and probably child mortality.
He added: “Use your ingenuity to increase the knowledge of breastfeeding among spouses, partners and family members.”