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Director, Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, says increasing criminality, including insurgency and kidnapping, in Nigeria, is partly caused by many babies not being breastfed properly, particularly before they were six months old.
Dr Anas-Kolo made the disclosure at a World Breastfeeding Week webinar hosted by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with FHI360 with the theme ‘Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet.’
Anas-Kolo, putting Nigeria’s current breastfeeding rate at 29 per cent, said increasing spate of criminality in the last two years cannot be dissociated from improper breastfeeding to ensure intelligent individuals that can take the right decisions.
Dr Anas-Kolo said: “More than 20 years ago, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti said that when you drink the cow milk, you behave like a cow. Many people laughed at him, but that is the fact. If you give your baby cow’s milk, the baby behaves like a cow. No wonder we are still not yet there in Nigeria.
“You can imagine a two per cent breastfeeding rate as of that time. It means most of our leaders have been breastfed improperly. We have achieved 29 per cent breastfeeding rate but we should even aim at realizing more than 50 per cent so that we have almost all our leaders having been properly breastfed to be smart and intelligent leaders that can take the right decisions.
“You can see what Professor Ransome-Kuti said in the past 20 years, the criminality that has happened in the last two years, the insurgencies and the kidnappings cannot be dissociated. Part of the causes is improper breastfeeding; so please when we talk to leaders, we should bring this criminality to the forefront and let’s collectively tackle the problem of low breastfeeding.”
She, however, said the progress made on breastfeeding in Nigeria could be better with increased male support for breastfeeding, creation of a safe, private environment for women to comfortably continue to breastfeed and the dispelling of misconceptions on breastfeeding.
Gates Foundation representative, Dr Victor Ajieroh, said the non-integration of nutrition in health systems over the years had resulted in missed opportunities for improving breastfeeding and nutrition alongside other health indicators.
“If skilled birth attendants are also skillful in breastfeeding counselling and are effectively supported, optimal breastfeeding behaviours will increase at the same rate of Skill birth attendance,” he added.
Dr Ajieroh asked that the new Infant and Young Children Feeding (IYCF) indicators built into the national health management information system be fully operationalised as well as the effective execution of the revised regulation on the marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Dr Simeon Nanama, speaking on behalf of UNICEF and other UN partners, called for renewed commitment from all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria meets the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent breastfeeding rate come 2025.
Nanama said the renewed commitment is particularly more important because of the COVID-19 pandemic which has made many households, especially those with infants and young children, vulnerable to food insecurity.
According to him, many mothers worry about the safety of breastfeeding their children while others who want to breastfeed don’t have the energy due to inadequate dietary intake by mothers, worsened by household food insecurity.