By Ndidi Chukwu
The Civil Society scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) is pushing for extension of maternity leave from three to six months in efforts to promote maternity and exclusive breastfeeding. Prof Ngozi Nnam, Chair of CS-SUNN and president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, said the extension “can give mothers leverage to stay home for six months and practice exclusive breastfeeding.”
Part of its ambition is to secure approval for 10 days paternity leave for men to be able to help their spouses, but only Lagos state has implemented the extension so far across the country.
“Nobody will have an option than to accept it, and we are earnestly looking forward to that policy coming up in Nigeria.” Nnam said in a policy dialogue of Civil Societies on nutrition in Abuja. This is even as Nigeria launches its health sector component of National Food and Nutrition Policy a document to guide interventions in nutrition until 2019.
CS-SUNN coordinator Dr. Philipa Momah called for the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition to be “implemented at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition.”
She said malnutrition contributes to half of all deaths among children aged under five and poor nutrition within the first 1,000 days can lead to stunting (when a child is too short for their height), according to estimates.
Nigeria’s 11 million stunted children are the largest numbers in Africa and ranks only second globally behind India, attributable to poor nutrition and improper breastfeeding.
“These statistics are totally unacceptable and this brings to the fore the importance of this multi-stakeholders involvement to correct this major health challenge in Nigeria,” Tanimola Akande, national chairperson of Association of Public Health Physicians said.