Stakeholders train health workers on dangers of breastmilk substitutes
A global nutrition initiative, Alive & Thrive (A&T), and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC),
on Wednesday, trained health workers in Kaduna State on the dangers of Breastmilk Substitute (BMS). The Zonal Coordinator of the organisation, Mrs. Sarah Kwasu, said in Zaria that the training was under the A&T Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) in Nigeria programme.
Kwasu said that the training was organised by the State Primary Health Care Board as part of efforts to promote optimal breastfeeding practices. She explained that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months towards reducing infant morbidity and mortality, especially in developing countries. She added that to achieve this, the World Health Assembly in 1981, adopted the Code of Marketing of BMS to discourage the promotion of substitutes globally and ensure full adoption of exclusive breastfeeding. She attributed the current low MICYN practices in the country to the continued violation of the International Code of BMS by producers and marketers of breastmilk substitutes.
“These violations include the inappropriate labelling and advertisement of BMS, distribution of promotional items, hospital visits and engagement with health workers, as well as direct contact with expectant and new mothers.
“Also, awareness of the Code is very low among health workers and government employees,” she said.
She said that the A&T initiative was being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to save lives, prevent illness, and improve the health and wellbeing of mothers, children, and adolescents. This, she said, is being achieved using evidence-based approaches in collaboration with governments and other partners at global, regional, national, and community levels. She pointed out that as a regulatory agency, NAFDAC was specifically assigned the responsibility of implementation, enforcement, and monitoring of adherence to the Code. She said that NAFDAC had been conducting an awareness campaign to ensure compliance with the International Code of Marketing of BMS to improve knowledge, practice, and attitude towards exclusive breastfeeding. She said that A&T had earlier supported NAFDAC to sensitise health workers from 16 health facilities in four selected LGAs namely Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun, and Igabi.
The Zonal Coordinator described the sensitisation as a “huge success” following the step down of the training to a total of 672 health workers. According to her, the current training was to support NAFDAC and the State Primary Health Care Board to scale up the training to other LGAs.
“The participants are expected to regularly step down the learnings to other staff of their respective facilities.”
The State Nutrition Officer, Mrs Ramatu Haruna, said the training was designed to improve the health workers’ knowledge of their role in protecting pregnant women, mothers, and their infants from inappropriate use of BMS. Haruna added that the training was also to re-orient the health workers on the importance of promoting early initiation of breastmilk and six months of exclusive breastfeeding in health facilities.
“The training was also organised to discuss challenges to BMS regulations and compliance in health facilities and community and identify areas for further support.
“We also want to reflect on how NAFDAC, state and Local Government Area actors can successfully work together to address these challenges.
“At the end, we want to secure commitments from the Primary Health Care workers on addressing Code noncompliance and promote MIYCN programming through their various platforms,” she said.
Mrs Rahila Maishanu, BMS Officer, NAFDAC, Kaduna State Office, said that healthcare workers have a duty to control the introduction, use and movement of BMS in health facilities.
Maishanu called on the health workers to support, protect and promote breastfeeding towards building a healthy and productive population for the development of society.