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Nigerian leaders gather to recognize breastmilk as fuel for development

June 2016, Abuja, Nigeria — In light of compelling evidence recently presented by the medical journal, The Lancet, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Nigerian partners gathered influential policy makers and stakeholders for a high-level dialogue on breastfeeding, and its ability to protect and promote human health, and economic and environmental progress.

As Nigerian leaders increasingly focus on improving the nutrition status of its people, breastfeeding warrants special attention: exclusive breastfeeding rates in Nigeria are amongst the lowest in the world, with only 17% of children 0-6 months exclusively breastfed (not fed any other liquids or food). This gathering leveraged growing momentum and engagement across Nigeria, and encouraged action around key advocacy issues, including stronger implementation of the global Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and expanded maternity entitlements at the federal and state levels.

DSC_4555The event was attended by high-level decision makers, including Nigeria’s Ministers of Health and Labour and Employment, the head of Nigeria’s Dangote Foundation, and commissioners of health from Lagos and Adamawa states.

Political action, will, and collaboration
During the event, Minister of Health, Dr. Isaac Adewole, emphasized his commitment towards protecting and promoting breastfeeding by ensuring that policies are fully funded and adequately implemented, such as the National Food and Nutrition Policy, and the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition. Both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, committed themselves to supporting crèches and breastfeeding spaces at work, and extending maternity leave from four to six months.

For more information from the event, please see the media coverage below:

Photo: Dr. Nigel Rollins, Series co-author, Department of Maternal, Newborn and Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organization and Dr. R.A. Sanusi, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan answer questions from the audience fielded by the moderator, Eugenia Abu.
Photo credit: Alive & Thrive