The Cross River State Government has disclosed plans to introduce six months maternity and some months paternity leave for nursing mothers and their husbands, as it targets 80 per cent exclusive breastfeeding in the state.
It made the pledge following the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) target in ensuring that Nigeria met the 50 per cent standard in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target for 2030 set by the World Health Assembly.
Director-General of the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCDA), Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, told The Guardian in a telephone interview that it was concerned with breastfeeding in the state.
“As of 2019, we achieved about 25 per cent in exclusive breastfeeding, and last year, we improved to about 40 per cent of women breastfeeding their children. However, it has been challenging, because women always complain about a lot of things that always hinder them from exclusive breastfeeding.
She canvassed extension of maternity leave to six months for all nursing mothers, while fathers should be given some maternity leave because of their importance in post-natal care or care of newborn babies.
“We have heard situations where some men are really involved in supporting and encouraging their wives throughout and the women always come out confident and relaxed. A lot of people who are sometimes overwhelmed do not have any form of family support, and so, we encourage that maternity leave should be extended to six months,” she said.
Meanwhile a recent joint statement issued by UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore and Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “In Nigeria, where one in eight children do not reach their fifth birthday and three out of 10 children are stunted, optimal breastfeeding reduces neonatal and child morbidity and mortality rates and stunted education.
“Optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding along with nurturing, care, and stimulation strengthens a child’s brain development with positive impacts that endure over a lifetime.
“Available statistics show that the average duration of exclusive breastfeeding is approximately three months and only three of every 10 children under six months were exclusively breastfed, which is just 29 per cent.”