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Group Demands 6 Months Maternity Leave For Mothers

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File Photo: Mother and child in a happy mood

A group, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) has called on the Enugu State government to extend maternity leave from three months to six months.

Enugu State Coordinator of the group, Finian Ali, made the call, yesterday, during an advocacy visit to the State Head of Service, Ken Onyebuchi Ugwu.

Ali said that the proposed six-month maternity leave would help promote exclusive breastfeeding, as well as ensure that mothers give their babies the quality breastmilk nutrition that they deserve during that period.

According to him, exclusive breastfeeding during the period of the six-month maternity leave will also help to improve the child’s ability to reason well, as well as reduce the huge costs of treating malnutrition in the state.

He expressed worry that in Enugu state, only about 36 out of 100 women exclusively breastfeed their children, adding that the remaining 64% are not able to breastfeed their babies exclusively, for various reasons, including the burden and responsibilities of work.

This development, he said, has led to malnutrition and nutrition related diseases in children, explaining that malnutrition has remained a public health concern in Nigeria due to complex factors.

He said: “Nutrition is essential to children’s growth and development. The first 1000days of a child’s life (the period from conception to age 2) is important for optimal physical, mental and cognitive growth, health and development.

 “Malnutrition is a formidable cause of death, with stunting, in particular, linked to adverse outcomes such as poor brain and cognitive development, a loss of 2-3 years of schooling, poor school performance and diminished productivity in adulthood.

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“In Enugu state, NDHS 2018 reveals that 14.8% of children under-five are stunted, 6.1% are underweight, and 2.5% are wasted.

“This statistic translates to over 159,000 stunted children and over 24,000 wasted children in Enugu state.”

Also speaking during the visit, the State Nutrition Officer, Henrietta Ugwu, advised mothers to start breastfeeding their babies within the first one hour after delivery, saying that this practice would reduce the rate of child mortality, as well as lead to timely release of the placenta among mothers.

She urged the state government to extend paid maternity leave from three to six months, as well as come up with a policy that would promote exclusive breastfeeding, adding that such policy would be beneficial to both mother and child.

Meanwhile, the state government has established a committee in the office of the Head of Service to review the state existing civil service rules.

Chukwuma Gerald Nnaji, a retired permanent secretary and member of the committee who represented the Head of Service at the event, assured that the committee would make recommendations that would impact positively on the lives of civil servants and the generality of the people.

The CS-SU NN is an alliance of non -governmental, non-profit organizations with a shared vision to transform Nigeria into a country where every citizen is food and nutrition secured.

As part of commitment to achieve adequate nutrition, CS-SUNN with support from UNICEF is implementing the Increased Investment in Nutrition to Scale up Quality Nutrition.

It achieves its vision by raising awareness about the importance of investing in nutrition and by holding the government accountable for their roles and commitments.

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The group equally engages government and mobilizes non – state actors to advocate for relevant policies, funding and program implementation, evidence generation and capacity building of local communities to scale-up nutrition.

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