The Civil Society- Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), a coalition of NGOs on Thursday, lauded Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo for approving the review of maternity leave to six months.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the state government had on Tuesday, announced the extension of maternity leave from three months to six months.
The state government that it adopted the six-month policy in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation on exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) of a child.
Ms. Jayne Arinze, Senior Monitoring Evaluation Officer for CS- SUNN gave the commendation at the ongoing five-day capacity training for media practitioners and civil society organisations on scaling up nutrition in Nigeria in Ibadan.
She said that the extension would give nursing mothers the opportunity to practice exclusive breastfeeding and also improve infant health outcomes.
“We want to congratulate the Oyo State Government on this giant stride, which we believe will help to reduce malnutrition crisis in the state.
“The extension of maternity leave for its female employee will help to increase exclusive breastfeeding uptake in the state.
“Exclusive breastfeeding is very important in the first few months of a baby’s life to guarantee their optimal growth and development.
“Breast milk, which contains all the nutrients any infant need in the first six months of their life, is the best source of nutrition for a new born baby.
“Nutrition forms the basis of any developmental issue, out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 14 of them are related to nutrition; in essence, we cannot achieve these SDGs without nutrition.
“The adoption of six-month maternity leave will not only positively impact on the lives of the babies and their mothers but also the state as a whole in terms of productivity and development,” she said.
Earlier, Dr. Kahdijat Alarape, the Oyo State Project Coordinator at Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN), said that the state was yet to meet the WHO’s target of 60 per cent exclusive breastfeeding rate in spite government’s efforts on raising awareness.
“The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2017 put the state’s exclusive breastfeeding rate at 49.5 per cent.
“We noticed that exclusive breastfeeding rate is also low among literate women and we have identified short length of maternity leave as a major factor that discourages it.
“This new extension of maternity leave will help nursing mothers start strong and practice exclusive breastfeeding; increase in exclusive breastfeeding rate will help to reduce the burden of child malnutrition in the state,” she said.
Alarape said that employers in the private sector, who cannot adopt the six-month paid maternity leave, should be mandated to provide crèche and breastfeeding breaks in workplaces.
According to her, in order to improve child nutrition in the state, nursing mothers working in the private sector should also be protected.
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