Five Community-based Organisations (CBOs) in Anambra State, Ezira, Nnewi, Neni, Obosi and Nise have benefitted from UNICEF Speaking Sessions aimed at creating awareness on Essential Family Practices (EFPs).
The EFPs include breast feeding of infants exclusively for about six months, taking into account WHO/UNICEF/UNIDS policies and recommendation on HIV and infant feeding; taking children for full course on immunisation before their first birthday.
It entails recognising when sick children need treatment outside the home and take them for healthcare to the appropriate provider.
It also includes disposal of faeces including children’s faeces safely; washing hands with soap after defecation, before preparing meals and feeding children.
The EFPs also include; ensuring that every pregnant woman receives the recommended minimum of four antenatal visits, recommended doses of tetanus toxide vaccination.
These EFPs are supported by family and community in seeking appropriate care, especially at the time of delivery and during the postpartum breast feeding period.
In a speech during the sessions, Mrs Chineze George-Ileka, UNICEF Desk Officer, Anambra Ministry of Information and Public Enlightenment, Awka, said that UNICEF was concerned about reducing mother and child mortality and morbidity rates.
Mrs George-Ileka noted that women and children were agents of change; the training to enable them to change the narrative of failure to that of breath-taking success in their communities.
She emphasised that personal, family and community cleanliness would promote good health that was essential for growth and development.
The desk officer noted that people were always in a hurry to eat whatever would come their way without properly washing their hands.
“Most illnesses and deaths are caused by germs that get into the mouth through food, unsafe water and dirty hands.”
She demonstrated how to wash the mouth properly using chewing stick and tooth brush to avoid mouth odour, urging them to drink water always to reduce the acidic content of the stomach.
Mrs Ileka while saying that unhealthy practices constitute 90 per cent health challenges in the world, advocated for proper hygiene practices as a prerequisite to healthy living.
The Desk Officer, then, urged the women to put in their best to achieve behavioural change in lives of their community members so as to actualise UNICEF’s dream.
On her part, Dr Rose Amasiani, Anambra State Hygiene Promotion Officer decried the attitude of those who defecate on open surfaces and dump refuse indiscriminately, which constitute health hazards.
Dr Amasiani said that toilet was the safest place to throw away faeces to avoid the spread of disease.
She urged all families to have good pit toilet, pour-flush or water system in their homes.
The hygiene promoter noted that there were five faecoral routes of disease transmission to include food, fluid, field, finger and fruit.
She called for thorough washing of hands using soap or ash under running water as necessary after contact with faeces such as after using the toilet, cleaning up babies’ buttocks before feeding children.
She demonstrated how best to wash hands using soap and running water, advising them to air-dry their hands after washing as the use of general hand towel could be contagious.
On sanitary cleanliness, Dr Amasiani emphasised that hygiene was necessary during menses.
“Clean and dry sanitary pads/cloth should be available for girls and women. Sanitary pads should be disposed of properly with other refuse or buried.
“Where clothes are used during menses, wash them regularly with soap and clean water and dry them fully in the sun before the next use.
She adds: “poor menstrual hygiene can lead to infections and repeated infections of the birth canal can cause failure to conceive”.
The Motivational Speaker of the programme, Mrs Scholastica Okoli said that every woman had rights to healthcare, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.
“A pregnant woman needs to be checked by skilled birth attendants because something may go wrong.”
Mrs Okoli said that exclusive breast feeding was the only food and drink that an infant would need until the age of six months after which different kinds of food would be introduced.
“Make sure that the baby sucks the first yellowish milk (colostrums) that comes out of the breast, which helps to fight germs responsible for diseases.
“Breastfeeding helps to protect babies and young children against dangerous illness, creating special closeness between mother and child and prevents unplanned pregnancy.”
On immunisation, she said that vaccination was urgent and compulsory as it helped the child to fight against major killer diseases.
“It is important that children get needed vaccines at the right time for full protection.
“A child who is not vaccinated is more likely to become sick, permanently disabled or become malnourished and dies.
“Proper breast feeding helps in family planning; it helps women to regain all that she lost during last pregnancy and child birth.”
Mrs Okoli enjoined all pregnant women to attend antenatal clinic and access HIV screening and counseling to know whether they were already infected with it or not.
“If a pregnant woman is HIV positive, she should start HIV treatment immediately as provided by health workers.”
Women leaders of the communities visited ensured impressive turn-out of their members, mobilising the right calibre of people required for the training.
They promised to take ownership of the programme by ensuring proper and adequate supervision of the goings-on in their respective communities as ambassadors of change.
Lecture materials on basic health information on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) as well as Information, Communication & Education( IEC) materials (facts for life) were handed over to leaders of communities visited.
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