UNICEF Says No Mother To Child COVID-19 Infection In Breastfeeding

From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has allayed the fear that a COVID-19 positive mother can endanger the child through breastfeeding.

The revelation was made on Wednesday during a Media Dialogue heralding the World Breastfeeding Week 2021, held at Tahir Guest Palace, Kano, at the instance of UNICEF Kano office, in conjunction with Abubakar Rimi Television (ARTV), Kano.

The world donor organization, concerned with the welfare of children, noted that a baby cannot get infected with COVID-19 through the mother’s breastmilk, with facts  from intensive research and study which have  shown that Corona  Virus cannot be found in the breastmilk.

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist in Kano Field Office,  Oluniyi Oyedokun,  in his presentation,  underscored the need for nursing mothers to engage in exclusive breastfeeding, at least, for six months, pointing out that it was needless feeding the child with water or other beverages within the first six months of birth.

He insisted that the milk in the breast of a nursing mother contains enough water, nutrients, as well as anti-biotics to fight diseases.

According to him, “to date, active COVID-19 has not been detected in the breastmilk of any mother with COVID-19, so it is unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breastmilk.

“Mothers should continue breastfeeding with appropriate precautions which include wearing a medical mask if available, washing hands with soap and water before and after touching your baby, routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched.

“Your chest only needs to be washed if you have just coughed on it, otherwise, your breast does not need to be washed before every feeding.”

He further stated that,  “the challenges of child survival are enormous, with poor infant and young child feeding practices as a major factor responsible for millions of child’s deaths.”

He disclosed that supporting, promoting and protecting breastfeeding from birth to the age of 23 months and beyond can reduce the high rates of infant and under-five mortalities.

Oyedokun also cautioned against giving the baby water, disclosing that UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) has in a joint statement declared that exclusive breastfeeding serves as the child’s first and most effective vaccine against malnutrition and all forms of diseases.

 “Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a powerful line of defence against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity.

“Breastfeeding also acts as babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses,” he added.

He, however, appealed that  all hands should be on deck to encourage exclusive breastfeeding, adding that, “breastfeeding is not only the responsibility of the mother. Everyone, including husband, mother-in-law, grandmother, health worker, policy makers, community leaders, media personnel, etc are to be involved.”

In his speech, the Officer-in-Charge (OIC),UNICEF Field Office Kano, Michael Banda, also stated  that, “breastfeeding plays an important role in the life of the child so much that the first breastmilk a child receives when he is born is indeed his immunisation as the colostrum in that first flow from the child’s mother contains immunity-conferring  benefits on the child.”
Highlighting the theme for the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week:  ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility,’ Banda explained that it focuses attention on the role everyone should play in supporting breastfeeding at all levels, including community and family levels, with special focus on reiteration of COVID-19 messages to enhance breastfeeding.

However, a Communique raised after the Media Dialogue,  expressed worry over the statistics by UNICEF that ranked Kano with a total of 18 percent  stunted children in the country, describing it  as reprehensible.

It urged the state government to stem the tide with  proactive measures. 

The Communique signed by Muhammad Tijjani Abdulsalam and Aisha Ahmed further stated that, “Kano statistics shows that stunted children 56. 9 percent,   underweight 46 percent,  wasting 7.9 percent. 

“It is observed that exclusive Breastfeeding is the first choice for child survival in children between 0- 5 months, and therefore urged nursing mothers in the state to adopt this step for a healthy child.

“UNICEF statistics that said  45 percent of the total death among under aged children is caused by malnutrition is not complementary in a country with abundance, and wish to call on relevant stakeholders to harness available resources to checkmate the ugly trend. 

“Experts say water intakes among infants triggered infections like kidney related complications in children 0 – 5 months, we call on breastfeding mothers to discourage this attitude.

“It is observed that exclusive breastfeeding improves the health of mother,  and child  at birth, and we call on breastfeeding mothers to take this expert advise with utmost seriousness. 

“Experts say exclusive Breastfeeding is the first vaccine that protects children 0 – 5 months from child related diseases therefore, we urge mothers, stakeholders to adopt this as a choice.

“The stakeholders observed that exclusive breastfeeding guarantee strong immune system,  lower rates of infant mortality,  and neonatal deaths among children 0 – 5 months, we hereby recommend nursing mother to adopt this line of thinking for healthy child growth. 

“We  recognized the media as a critical partners to promote attitudinal change in the society, and hereby tasked them to galvanize actions on theme related to promotion of exclusive breastfeeding among the populace. 

 “We also tasked policy makers, traditional rulers, religious leaders,  Household heads to encourage exclusive breastfeeding in their private and public engagements.” 

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