UNICEF, stakeholders harps on parental leave extension

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By Eunice Nnachi, Yenagoa

The Executive Secretary of the Bayelsa State Primary Health Care Board, Dr Appah Williams has emphasized the importance of extending parental leave and implementing breastfeeding in workplaces as factors that would enhance the health of mothers and children in the state.

Dr Williams stated this during a one day Advocacy Sensitization of Legislators and Head of Service in the passage of bill in support of six months paid maternity leave and two weeks paternity leave with the implementation of breastfeeding workplace initiative in Bayelsa State held in Yenagoa, the state capital organized by the Ministry of Health and the Primary Health Care Board in collaboration with UNICEF.

While giving a welcome address, he pointed out that maternity leave should be extended to six months to enable women engage in exclusive breastfeeding which has physical, economic and financial benefits on the family and society.

Speaking on the topic, Breastfeeding and Work: the prospects, challenges and way forward, Mrs Alice Nte emphasized that breastfeeding is one of the best investment in children and mothers health hence there is a need for all employers to create an enabling environment for all working mothers to breastfeed their children.

“Exclusive breastfeeding for 6months is very beneficial for every child and breastfeeding remains an important part of children’s nutrition for at least 36 months, women need time, space and support for exclusive breastfeeding, they also need emotional support from fathers”

Mrs Nte urged the lawmakers present at the event to make and promote policies that would support breastfeeding such that in every workplace, there would be breastfeeding rooms for the comfort of mothers as well as develop systems of funding the informal sector for women to get paid during the six months maternity leave.

” Lawmakers are key stakeholders to ensure that exclusive breastfeeding works well in Bayelsa State, the longer the maternity leave, the better nourished our children will be which would reduce malnourished children and infant mortality”

On his part, State Nutrition Officer, Mr Ebi Wilson noted that maternity leave provides mothers with the time to physically recover from childbirth, establish successful breastfeeding practices and ensure long-term health of mother and child.

Mr Wilson equally noted that extension of maternity leave allows women to continue thier careers without facing discrimination based on motherhood.

While speaking on malnutrition which is a major health issue in children he noted that if children are well breastfeed, there would be a drastic reduction in malnourished children.

“Management of Severe Acute Malnourishment report from January to October 2023.
Total admission: 961, Total cured: 202
Report from the VAP implementation in October 2023, the following number of malnourished cases were screened.
SAM: 1,154
MAM: 3,775
Total 4, 929”

In an opening remark, Bayelsa State Commissioner of Health represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Oluwatoyin Azebi encouraged all young women breastfeeding to always dress comfortably such that they can easily breastfeed their children anytime and anywhere.

While giving a goodwill message, Program Officer, Civil Society, Scale up Nutrition, CS- SUN, Dr Goodness Anyanwu stressed the need for improved funding on good nutrition for mothers and their children.

Dr Anyanwu urged the state government to increase the budget on nutrition and ensure that resources are released and used appropriately.

Chief Executive Officer of ENWAF, Lady Eunice Nnachi who participated in the event reiterated her commitment to continuous sensitization and enlightenment campaigns on the importance and benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.

The event was well attended by all relevant stakeholders in the health sector, NGOS, media organizations and Civil Society Organizations.