Save the Children International (SCI), an NGO, has sensitised health workers across the three Senatorial Zones of Kaduna State against promoting breast milk substitute in health facilities.
Isah Ibrahim, SCI Nutrition Advocacy Advisor, made this known in Kaduna on Thursday at the opening of a one-day sensitisation meeting on the International Code of BMS and National Regulations.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the sensitisation was organised by SCI in partnership with the Kaduna State Ministry of Health and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control.
NAN recalls that a recent report by SCI shows that some health facilities in the state were promoting infant formula, also known as BMS, in Kaduna State.
This, according to the report, contravenes the International Code of marketing BMS.
Ibrahim pointed out that BMS was being promoted because many health workers in the state were not aware of the Code of marketing BMS and the national regulations.
To confirm this, the nutrition advocacy advisor asked the health workers at the meeting if they have heard about the Code and their responses were negative.
He advised the participants and other health workers against promoting BMS, adding that doing so would predispose a child to malnutrition and other health challenges with long term consequences.
According to him, EBF and adequate complementary feeding remain the healthiest, safest and nutritious feeding practices for infant and young children as against BMS.
“Currently, about 95 per cent of mothers practise breastfeeding, but only two to three out of 10 mothers exclusively breastfeed their children in the state. We must improve on that,” he said.
He said that the sensitisation was organised for 24 health workers from Kaduna South Senatorial Zone, adding that 24 each, from Kaduna North and Kaduna Central, had been sensitised between September 22 and 23.
The Commissioner of Health, Dr Amina Baloni, described the development as “very unfortunate”, saying that the trend prompted the sensitisation of the health workers.
Baloni, who was represented by the Director of Medical Services, Dr Ado Zakari, said that the trend prompted the ministry to partner with the NGO and NAFDAC to conduct the sensitisation.
The commissioner stressed that the health workers should be promoting exclusive breastfeeding instead of BMS, adding that the current practice was unacceptably low at 27 per cent.
“Unfortunately, many of the health workers do not practise EBF and if they do not believe in it, it will be difficult to convince mothers to practise it.
“We want you to be a role model by encouraging mothers to practise EBF given its benefits in the healthy growth and development of the child,” she said.
Also speaking, Nantim Mullah, Deputy Director, NAFDAC, Kaduna Office, said that the sensitisation was key to ensuring adherence to the BMS Code and the National Regulations on infant formula.
Mullah explained that the objective of the meeting was to educate the health workers on their responsibilities toward encouraging and protecting breastfeeding in health facilities.
He added that the meeting was equally held to sensitise health workers on the provisions of the BMS Code and other World Health Assembly Resolutions relating to health workers and facilities.
“We also want to educate the health workers about the penalties contained in the recent National Regulations on the marketing of infant and young child food and other designated products.
“The sensitisation will equally increase the knowledge of health workers about breastfeeding management, skills and how they can help mothers to access information and needed support.
“We will equally get the health workers to see the urgent need to promote baby-friendly services in public health facilities in the state,” Mullah said.