Stakeholders in the maternal health sector in Kano State have urged the Kano State government to extend the paid maternity leave period from three to six months as part of moves to provide an enabling environment for continuous breastfeeding.

The chief of field office, UNICEF, Kano, Rahama Farah, who led the call on Thursday, stressed that only 9% of organisations in the formal sector have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5% in the public sector.

He made the call along with other stakeholders, including nursing mothers in Kano, during a workshop for the sensitization of stakeholders on enabling breastfeeding environment for working parents as part of the 2023 World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action’s (WABA) World Breastfeeding Week organized in partnership with Kano State Ministry of Health and FHI360 Alive & Thrive.

Farah said there is an urgent need to create an environment where working parents are supported in their journey of nurturing their children while also pursuing their careers.

He said that, aside from its call on the Kano State government to extend paid maternity leave from three to six months, the government should, among other things, prioritize the needs of working parents through the provision of lactation rooms/crèches in all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies and implement breastfeeding breaks and flexible work arrangements.

He also asked the government to provide adequate resources for the prevention of malnutrition through the promotion, protection, and support for maternal, infant and young child nutrition.

“Finally, as breastfeeding is a shared responsibility, UNICEF calls on everyone, traditional and religious community leaders, CSOs, media, and everyone to support breastfeeding,” he said.

Since 1992, WABA coordinates the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) – a global campaign that aims to inform, anchor, engage, and galvanize action on breastfeeding and related issues.

“Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in children’s and women’s health and survival. Breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years and 20,000 annual maternal deaths from breast cancer. However, workplace limitations remain the most common reason for women to never breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, or than they want themselves,” a statement by WABA reiterated.

It added that there is a need to improve access to paid maternity leave and other breastfeeding services for women both inside and outside the workplace.

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