The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), on Wednesday unveiled documents to support compliance to breastfeeding code implementation and Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) regulations in the country.
The unveiling ceremony was done in Abuja at the 40th Anniversary of the International Code of marketing of the BMS in Nigeria with the theme “Implementing the BMS Code in Nigeria: Progress, Challenges and Opportunities”.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said that the BMS Code was an international health policy framework for breastfeeding protection and promotion adopted by the 3rd and 4th of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1981.
Represented by her Special Assistant, Mr Gbenga Fajemirokun, the director general said that the Code was developed as a public health strategy.
He added it was aimed at contributing to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by protecting and promoting breastfeeding and to ensure proper use of breast-milk substitutes only when they were necessary.
Adeyeye said that the code was to protect mothers from aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
He further said the code was also to ensure safe feeding and better nutrition for infants and young children as the provision of the code recommended restrictions on marketing of BMS.
“Nigeria, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) voted for code adoption in 1981 and is expected to implement all its provisions in the entirety as a minimum requirement and to translate it into national legislation, regulations and other suitable measures.
“As a country, Nigeria takes her international and national obligations very serious which is why the provisions of CAP M5 Marketing BMS Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 as amended by Decree 22 of 1999.
“This Act designated NAFDAC as the regulatory agency to implement, monitor and enforce the code in Nigeria.
“It is our collective desire as NAFDAC, the agency designated to implement and enforce this code compliance in Nigeria, to work collaboratively with all stakeholders and partners.
“To contribute to achieving safe and adequate nutrition for our infants through protection and promotion of breastfeeding,” Adeyeye said.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that the ministry remained committed to improve survival of children, especially the ones under the age of five-year and maternal child care through various policies that would promote healthy living.
Represented by Dr Anas Kolo, Director of Family Health in the ministry, said that the ministry had gone ahead to promote baby friendly hospital initiative.
Ehanire maintained that the ministry would continue to promote exclusive breastfeeding and other initiative in the same direction.
The minister, therefore, encouraged mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that support mechanisms were on the way to encourage mothers.
In his goodwill message, Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said that discussion was already on in the National Assembly to permit mothers to embark on six months maternity leave after delivery.
He added that this would also support exclusive breastfeeding.
Oloriegbe noted that Nigeria had not achieved its target as far as exclusive breastfeeding was concerned, adding that the environment had not been friendly to achieve that.
“We must promote friendly environment for this initiative, a lot must be done to encourage this to meet our target,” he said.
Mr Sheriff Olagunju, NAFDAC Director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said that the implementation of BMS Code had earned the country an improved rating in the 2020 International Code Status Report.
He added that NAFDAC would not rest on its oars to continue to enforce the code.
“The BMS Code spelt out roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in ensuring that breastfeeding is promoted, supported, and protected by implementing the provisions of the BMS Code and subsequent relevant WHA resolutions in its entirety.
“These stakeholders include but not limited to the government, policy makers, healthcare workers, healthcare system, the media, mothers and their families, development partners, Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations.
“The importance of breastfeeding is also evident in its significantly positive impact on our planet.
“This is because breast-milk is a natural and renewable food which requires no preparation, no packaging, no storage and no transportation.
“The earth benefits when women are encouraged to breastfeed their infants and young children, therefore, the enabling environment must be created by the society at large for this to happen,” Olagunju said.