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First Lady tasks stakeholders to engage Govt on breastfeeding policies



Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on Thursday urged stakeholders to engage government towards formulating policies that would promote breastfeeding as a practice in the country.

Buhari made the call at the commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week with theme, ‘Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support,’ by Staff of State House Clinic in Abuja.

The First Lady, represented by Rukaiyatu Gurin, Senior Special Assistant to the First Lady, said that breastfeeding contained numerous natural nutrients.

“I urge you to consolidate your role as custodians of breastfeeding, to engage government towards making policies that protect and promote breastfeeding as a practice.

“Breastfeeding provides babies with natural food that contains all the nutritional values that babies require as a natural remedy that protects the baby from all kinds of diseases,” she said.

She called for stronger collaboration among actors to strengthen the world chain of breast feeding.

“Let us all join our hands to educate, support and encourage our mothers to breastfeed their babies sufficiently for a healthier nation.

“Our fathers and daddies have a very great role to play by providing our mothers with good nutritional foods to feed the baby.”

Buhari, however, affirmed her support for breastfeeding which she said was key to nation building.

“As the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am also a key actor, I pledge my support to uphold and promote breastfeeding among others.

“It is important to pay emphasis on educating mothers on the advantages of breastfeeding; this process needs to involve all stakeholders, including fathers, family members and the community.”

Mr Tijjani Umar, Permanent Secretary State House, stated the administration’s commitment to the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

Umar, represented by Alhaji Bukar Mala, assured of their continued support to nurture the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for both healthy mother and child.

“The State House administration has been committed to the initiative by supporting the staff through training, workshop and other activities of breastfeeding support group.

“Additionally, the administration has made a creche available at the state House Clinic to support staff who are nursing babies to breast feed.”

Presenting a lecture on breastfeeding, Dr Otuneye Adekunle, Head of Department (HOD) Paediatrics, National Hospital, Abuja said that breastfeeding was antidote to maternal morbidity and mortality.

Adekunle also identified intellectual development as one of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding.

“The principal benefit of breastfeeding to a mother and child is that breastfeeding gives the child a better chance of survival.

“It also says that a child that is breastfed has a better chance of cognitive development, meaning that better performance in school, better performance concerning IQ.

“And for the mother, not only does it reduce child mortality, it also reduces maternal mortality and illnesses in the mother.

The Medical Practitioner also dismissed misconceptions about breastfeeding, saying they were not based on facts.

“There are so many misconceptions about breastfeeding and most of them are myths, they are not founded on any real fact.

“For instance, baby does not get water, 90 per cent of breastfeeding is water, breastfeeding is not what makes the breast to sag, with age changes occur.

“A mother that breastfeeds a child will not have a sagging breast because of that.”


Nigeria records significant decline in HIV/AIDS transmission — FG



Dr Gambo Aliyu, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), says Nigeria has recorded significant decline in the number of persons infected with HIV/AIDS.

He disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja on Friday, ahead of the 2023 World AIDS Day (WAD).

The WAD is a global observance, annually celebrated on Dec. 1 around the world to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic, caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who died of the disease.

The day has “Communities: Leadership to End AIDS by 2030” as its theme for 2023.

The NACA boss, therefore, said “Nigeria like many other countries has made significant strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but there is still much to be done to achieve the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“Nigeria has the second largest burden of HIV infection. Currently, a total of 1.8 million persons are estimated to be living with HIV in the country, out of which, about 1.63 million are already on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), a lifesaving medication.

“Approximately, 58 per cent are estimated to be females, and 42 per cent are males.

“The national average Mother-To-Child Transmission rate of 22 per cent is driven by a large number of states with transmission rates above 25 per cent and few states with rates below 15 per cent.

“Nigeria is responsible for about 30 per cent of the world’s gap in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).”

He said that the declining figure was achieved with the support of partners and global communities to prevent new infections, increase HIV awareness and knowledge and support those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

He, however, stressed the need to address social and structural factors that drive the HIV epidemic.

“It is imperative that we confront these systemic inequalities head-on and work to ensure that all individuals have equal access to life-saving prevention, treatment and care services, as well as  other social services available to Nigerians,” he said.

Dr Leo Zekeng, the Country Director of UNAIDS, who said that the UN body is committed

to continuous support to the Federal Government in eliminating HIV/AIDS, added that “we have made remarkable progress not only in Nigeria, but worldwide as about 30 million people are on treatment, which is remarkable.

“AIDS is no longer the deadly disease that it used to be, and those who are diagnosed with HIV but follow every rules and take the medication can live a normal life.”

On his part, Amobi Ogah, Chairman, House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control (ARM), said the parliament was working toward increasing budgetary allocation to fight the disease in the country.

He said “we assure you that the National Assembly will work toward increasing budgetary allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the face of limited resources.

“We will also provide the legislative framework to protect the rights of People Living with HIV and other forms of discrimination and stigmatisation.”

Mr Abdulkadir Ibrahim, the National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), said that the theme of the 2023 WAD recognises the need for communities to support programmes and initiatives toward achieving the 2030 target of ending AIDS.

Ibrahim, who was represented by Mr James Atusue, urged communities to tackle obstacles  standing in the way of providing HIV services to those who required them most.

He said “as a network, we continue to mobilise our community in solidarity, helping those living with HIV, and those affected by HIV to deal with stigma and discrimination, and support them to know existing services from the social and economic perspective.”

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Minister unveils policy on mental health, suicide prevention



Co-ordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Ali Pate has unveiled the “National Mental Health Policy” and the “National Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework” in Abuja yesterday.

The Minister commended the team that worked on the policy documents noting that they had worked extensively and invested in it.

He further noted that the policy was a followup to the resolution at the #NCH64 to “Adopt and implement the National Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.”

“Good mental health, including emotional, psychological, and social well-being of every Nigerian is an essential factor in the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President,” he explained.

The Minister promised to implement the policies by promoting understanding of mental health conditions and increasing access to healthcare for those who need it.

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FG to strengthen healthcare financing, improve immunisation services — Shettima



Vice President Kashim Shettima has stated that the President Tinubu led administration will strengthen healthcare financing and improve immunisation programmes in the country.

The Vice President made this known during a high-level strategic meeting on Gavi Alliance support to the Nigerian government at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to the VP, the Federal Government (FG) is irreversibly devoted to redefining the idea of modern leadership in the country, particularly as it pertains to the welfare of Nigerians.

The VP applauded the Alliance’s invaluable contributions to improving vaccine coverage in Nigeria, noting the significant increase from 33 percent to 57 percent since 2016.

“We are facing some fiscal and monetary challenges, but where there is the will, there is always the way. President Tinubu is irrevocably committed to redefining the meaning and concept of modern leadership in this country. We are committed to the welfare of our nation,” the Vice President noted.

The VP also acknowledged Gavi’s critical role in Nigeria’s polio eradication efforts, highlighting the last reported case in 2016, even as he emphasised the government’s dedication to sustainable domestic financing for immunisation programmes and its exploration of innovative financing mechanisms.

“We appreciate Gavi’s assistance in strengthening vaccine supply chain management and cold chain infrastructure. This has been instrumental in ensuring the availability and accessibility of vaccines to all Nigerians,” he added.

Soliciting Gavi’s continued support, Vice President Shettima outlined Nigeria’s plans for post-pandemic recovery and integration of immunisation services within broader health strategies.

He emphasised the need to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunisation programming and rebuild resilient health systems.

He continued, “We are grateful for Gavi’s unwavering commitment to Nigeria’s immunization efforts. We look forward to continued collaboration with Gavi and other stakeholders to achieve universal immunization coverage and ensure the well-being of all Nigerians.”

Earlier, the Interim CEO of Gavi Alliance, Mr David Marlow, while explaining the board’s visit to Nigeria, commended the President Tinubu administration for its “strong commitment to primary health care and immunisation.”

He said the government’s commitment to re-establishing the presidential taskforce on routine immunisation and the increase in healthcare funding, among others, was also commendable.

Mr Marlow assured the Federal Government and other stakeholders in the health sector of Gavi’s commitment to aligning with the vision of the new leadership of the country in advancing the cause of primary health care and immunisation.

Also present at the meeting were the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate; Executive Director/CEO of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Muyi Aina; Gavi’s Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery, Mr Thabani Maphosa; Chargé d’Affaires of the US Mission in Nigeria, Mr David Greene; World Bank Country Director, Nigeria, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, as well as representatives of development partners on the Gavi board, including the Gates Foundation,

UNICEF, WHO, and the UK government.

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