The grim data of two million children below age five suffering from malnutrition in Kano State may prompt a maternity leave extension to six months, the state’s ministry of health has said.
Abubakar Yusuf, the state’s commissioner for health, said the government is considering increasing maternity leave from three to six months for working mothers in their nursing period, according to Daily Trust.
Yusuf, who was represented by Amina Musa, permanent secretary of the ministry, said the current administration in the state is committed to health nutrition and ensuring the practice of exclusive breastfeeding in the state.
“Presently, we are looking at the possibility of extending maternity leave for working mothers beyond the current three months”, he said.
Halima Yakasai, nutrition officer, Kano Ministry of Health, attributed the poor nutrition to suboptimal feeding practices, particularly low exclusive breastfeeding rates, speaking at the flag-off of 2023 World Breastfeeding Week in Kano.
“According to MICS 2021, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding is 10.1 percent. More than 75 percent of children consume liquids and food in addition to breastfeeding during their first six months of life, which contributes to child malnutrition, infection, and even mortality”, she said.
Globally, the rates of breastfeeding has declined below the required standard to protect the health of women and children.
From 2013-2018, 48 percent of newborns initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Only 44 percent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.
While 68 percent of women continue to breastfeed their infant for at least one year, by two years of age, breastfeeding rates decline to 44 percent, according to the WHO Global Breastfeeding Scorecard 2021.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) in June blamed the stagnating breastfeeding rate on the aggressive marketing tactics used by manufacturers of breast milk substitutes to derail mothers.
He said manufacturers were using increasingly sophisticated promotional tactics including advertorials targeted at pregnant mothers’ mobile phones, and participation in online baby clubs, coaxing mothers to market formula to one another.
The Collective targets for these global rates in 2030 are 70 percent for initiation in the first hour, 70 percent for exclusive breastfeeding, 80 percent at one year, and 60 percent at two years. Therefore, countries’ efforts toward meeting the target rates of breastfeeding must be amplified.