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Health Stakeholders Launch “Start Strong” Campaign In Rivers.

The optimal survival, growth and development of children especially in the first 36 months of their lives depend on caregivers and health care workers who make decisions on infant and young child feeding practices they use.

Against this back drop, The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital in collaboration with the Rivers State Government and United Nations Children’s Fund has launched the “Start Strong” (zero water ) campaign to sensitize heads of government and private health facilities on breastfeeding, the international code on marketing breast milk substitutes, and breastfeeding in the context of Covid-19.

 In his welcome address, the chief medical director of Port-Harcourt teaching hospital, Prof. Henry Ugboma said malnutrition in various forms remains an important contributor to the death of under-fives.

The chairman, baby friendly initiative steering committee of University of Port Harcourt teaching hospital, dropped said as the country struggles with the current wave of COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession, parents need appropriate information and support to adopt and implement optimal infant and young child feeding practices to ensure optimal growth and development of their children.

In a webinar, that brought together, for the first time, the three tiers of the health system and partners in the planning and implementation of a programme aimed at improving the survival of children, he commended  the efforts of the State Government to ensure optimal infant and young child feeding.

He said although 97% of babies delivered in Rivers State and indeed in Nigeria are breastfed at some point in their lives, the early breastfeeding initiation(starting breastfeeding within one hour of birth) remains low at 42% and exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months 29% despite 30 years of promotion of breastfeeding.

” Consequent on these poor feeding practices, 37% of Nigerian children age 6-59 months are stunted (short for their age), 7% are wasted (thin for their height), 22% are underweight (thin for their age), and 2% are overweight (heavy for their height)”, he noted in dismay.

He called on all stakeholders to enable children to “start strong”, by giving them breast milk within the first hour of birth and no water for the first 6 months to assure them a better future maintaining that continuing breastfeeding through the 36 challenging months of a child’s life is their goal.

He also stressed the need for all stakeholders to adopt the practice of creating awareness on the invaluableness of breastfeeding as a child survival intervention strategy as well as the importance of teamwork in addressing the burden of childhood malnutrition.

 

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