Unlocking the Power of Exclusive Breastfeeding: Saving Lives and Shaping the Future, Exclusive breastfeeding’ll prevent 103,742 child deaths Declares Alive & Thrive fhi360

A top non-governmental organization Alive and Thrive which is a global nutrition initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth of mothers and children. From 2009–2014, A&T demonstrated that rapid improvements in infant and young child feeding (IYCF) are possible in settings as diverse as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Viet Nam. In 2014, A&T began working in Burkina Faso, India, Nigeria, and throughout the Southeast Asia region, expanding its scope to include maternal and adolescent nutrition, and using agriculture and social protection programs as delivery mechanisms for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN). Currently, A&T is leveraging its robust network and knowledge base to strengthen systems and build capacity in these and other countries across Africa and Asia, while also disseminating innovations, tools, and lessons worldwide. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Foundation, has asserted that adhering to exclusive breastfeeding practices for newborns for a continuous six-month period could potentially avert 103,742 child deaths and 10 million cases of childhood diarrhea and pneumonia. 

This declaration coincides with a warning from the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration, and Control (NAFDAC), which has pledged to prosecute violators of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS) in the country, imposing a two-year jail term.

During a one-day orientation event for Journalists, Bloggers, and social media influencers in Bauchi State on Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN), organized by the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency in collaboration with Alive and Thrive, Mr. Asimobi Chidiebere, the Bauchi State Coordinator/Focal Person for Alive & Thrive fhi360, encouraged media professionals to advocate for policies that promote exclusive breastfeeding.

Asimobi emphasized the pivotal role of media in championing the cause of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a newborn's life, stressing that it has the potential to prevent 103,742 child deaths and 10 million cases of childhood diarrhea and pneumonia. He underlined the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in infant development and growth, emphasizing that adequate nutrition is crucial for their well-being.

Asimobi noted that breastmilk provides all the essential nutrients and long-term health benefits required by babies during the first six months of life. He highlighted the media's ability to shape public perceptions and drive behavioral change, particularly regarding exclusive breastfeeding.

Furthermore, Asimobi explained that consistent media education on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding can dispel myths, beliefs, and social norms that discourage this practice. He highlighted the substantial cost savings and economic benefits for the country when mothers embrace exclusive breastfeeding, including savings of $22 million (equivalent to N6.93 billion) in treating childhood killer diseases and generating $21 billion (equivalent to N6.6 trillion) for the country. Additionally, exclusive breastfeeding eliminates the cost of breast milk substitutes, which amounts to $38 million (equivalent to N11 billion) for households.

Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed, Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, emphasized the critical importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a baby's life, from conception to the second birthday, for proper growth and productivity. He commended the collaboration between Alive and Thrive and the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency in training the media on Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN). Dr. Mohammed expressed the need to move away from Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) as a solution to malnutrition due to its cost and increasing patient demand.

Addressing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS) and the media's role in promoting compliance, Mrs. Josephine Dayilim, the Bauchi State Coordinator of NAFDAC, reiterated NAFDAC's commitment to prosecuting violators with a two-year jail term and forfeiture of offending items, regardless of quantity and cost. She urged journalists to report violations of BMS by vendors and manufacturers, particularly in Bauchi. She emphasized the importance of media support in effectively monitoring and reporting violations of national regulations by manufacturers of BMS products. She noted that the Code's implementation aims to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding while preventing aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes by infant food manufacturers. Lack of awareness among stakeholders, including the media, has contributed to the severity of violations observed.

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