Nigeria lunches Zero Water Campaign to promote breastfeeding

Gloria Essien, Abuja


The Nigerian government has lunched the “Zero Water Campaign” towards the promotion of Exclusive breastfeeding in the country.

The two year campaign is to educate Nigerians on the need to give babies only breast milk for at least six months.
The National Zero Water Campaign is also aimed at changing the narratives of  nutrition in Nigeria.
The Nigerian First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari while lunching the campaign, said that the health status of a country contributes largely to her economic growth and development.
She also said Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children with a national prevalence rate of 32% among children under five.
“In the same vein, an estimated two and a half million of our children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) but only two out of ten children affected are currently reached with treatment. I have no doubt that everybody is aware of the importance of breastfeeding and it is really worrisome that children do not benefit so much from it. Breastfeeding is the right of every newborn and the government of Nigeria recommends that initiation of breastfeeding should begin immediately after childbirth. The first breastmilk, which is colostrum, is highly nutritious and it contains antibodies that protect the newborn from diseases. Late initiation of breastfeeding is one major reason for introduction of prelacteal feeds which are potentially harmful to the newborn”, she explained.
Low exclusive breastfeeding rate

The First Lady pointed out that available data shows that only 27% of Nigerian children are exclusively breastfed. 

“Research also shows that one of the major challenges of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria is that children are given water before they are six months old. The children who are exclusively breastfed are less likely to fall ill, thereby reducing the burden in the health system and cost of hospitalization on the family. In Nigeria, non-breastfeeding comes with a huge cost and we cannot continue to lose our children when we can prevent such deaths using a simple cost-effective method of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children in the first six months of life”, the First Lady stressed.

Mrs Buhari also added that there are lots of benefits of breastfeeding for the mother, child, family, community and indeed for the nation.

On his part, the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. AbdulAziz Abdullahi, said the campaign would cover the thirty six states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). 

Campaign Objectives

The objectives of the National Zero Water Campaign are to:

i. Increase the proportion of infants put to breastmilk within an hour at birth;
ii. Increase the proportion of infants exclusively breastfed for six months; and
iii. Create enabling and supportive environment for the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.
Adding that it would also provide the three communication objectives; which are:
i. Provide information and educate caregivers, pregnant women and lactating mothers and other stakeholders on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding;
ii. Promote benefit of ‘Zero water’ as normative behavior in the first six months; and
iii. Advocate enforcement on the Breastmilk Substitute Code.
In her Goodwill message, the Deputy Country Representative of UNICEF, Pernille Ironside, commdeded Nigeria for making exclusive breastfeeding a priority.
Also the Director General of the Governor’s Forum, Mr. Ashishana Okairu, said all the members of the NGF are committed to promoting policies that would promote good nutrition practices in Nigeria.

The theme of the 2019 breastfeeding week is “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding: Now and for the Future”. 

The theme is also in tandem with the slogan of the National Zero Water Campaign which is ‘Zero Water, Exclusive Breastfeeding for Better Future’.

Bilkisu Pai