Minister urges sick women to desist from getting pregnant
More than half of Nigerian under-five children risk poor development because they lack early childhood development support, latest report launched by United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has revealed.
To rectify the situation, the organisation, at the National Early Childhood Development Conference on Tuesday in Abuja, where its report “Early Moments Matter for Every Child, was launched, is calling on all tiers of government and private organizations to give paid maternal and paternal leave to their employees to enable them give needed care for their new-borns.
UNICEF said while government gives only three months to nursing mothers, fathers do not enjoy paternal care in any part of country. It appealed to government and other employers to give six months maternal leave and one month paternal leave to nursing mothers and fathers respectively.
The organization said early childhood development is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
UNICEF Country Representative, Mohamed Malick Fall, argued at the event that during the first years of a child’s life, the brain grows rapidly, providing good nutrition, loving care and appropriate play provide solid foundations for a child’s learning – and eventual contribution to economic and social growth.
“What we call early childhood development, which includes physical and cognitive support, has a strategic place in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted, adding that “investing in early childhood development including services to support caregivers, quality pre-primary education and good nutrition will help to secure healthy and productive future generations in Nigeria.”
The report outlines three policies that can give parents the time and resources needed to support their young children’s healthy development.
The recommended policies are: two years of free pre-primary education; six months of paid maternity leave; and four weeks of paid paternity leave. “Nigeria currently has just three months of paid maternity leave, only one year of free pre-primary education and no paternity leave at all. Only about one in every 10 pre-primary children is enrolled in early education activities,” UNICEF said.
“As well as supporting exclusive breastfeeding, having good Early Childhood Development policies in place will help to improve the overall health and nutrition of a child, enable parents and caregivers to be more responsive to children’s needs and provide greater safety and security. It will also provide improved early learning.
With 90% of a child’s brain development occurring before the age of five, early childhood experiences can have a profound impact on a child’s development can ultimately impact a country’s growth,” the organization added.
In his remarks, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said whatever the country does to achieve good early childhood development for its children is not for the time the children are young, but for when they will become adults.
He said the country contributes one million under-five death, out of total 8.8 million of children deaths globally, making the nation the second largest contributor to such deaths.
He urged stakeholders to work together to crash child’s mortality in the nation.
Meanwhile, the minister revealed that most of the diseases children combat with while growing up began when they were in the womb.
He argued that when pregnant women and nursing mothers do not early good foods, their babies easily fall sick.
He called for increased investment in women before, during and after births.
“Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second-largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rates in the world.”
He said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is committed to crashing maternal and child mortality rates in the country.
According to him, programmes to help achieve the goal had started in six states with highest and maternal and child death rates in the nation.
The minister urged mothers to give greater attention to exclusive breastfeeding. He cautioned against feeding children below six months with anything other than the breast milk. He also appealed to sick women do desist from being pregnant until they are fit to do so.
Speaking at the event, Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Hon. Barbara Ayisi, said: “Ghana is in ecstasy because our children go to secondary schools free when they leave elementary school.
“Life is not about us, but about our children. The importance of early childhood development cannot be underestimated,” stressing that it goes a long way to help the child’s ability to learn and grow to become an asset to his or her nation.
Developing children’s skill, she noted, goes a long way in affecting their educational attainment, health, attitudes in the society among others.
She said cognitive abilities are affected by the environment where children find themselves, and all activities they are exposed to. “If we start it wrong, we will have it wrong, if we start it right, we will have it right,” she said.