The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)says its sensitisation on essential family practices to Imo state communities and others was to improve the health of children and reduce infant morbidity rate.

Mrs Margaret Ayoka, Director Primary Healthcare in the State Ministry of Health stated this at a sensitisation meeting of UNICEF and women of Amator Amuzu, Aboh Mbaise, held at the UNICEF Experimental School, Central School (1) in Aboh Mbaise LGA of Imo.

The programme was in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Owerri.

Ayoka spoke extensively on the five essential family practices which are exclusive breast feeding, immunization, proper disposal of feaces, hand washing and anti- natal care for pregnant women.

She described breast milk as the natural milk and first food for babies which provides all the nutrients and energy for healthy growth and development.

She said breast milk contains proteins, fats, vitamins, water and antibodies that help to fight infections in children.

According to her, exclusive breast feeding is a global initiative aimed at improving the health of children and reduce infant mortality and morbidity rate.

Ayoka said breast feeding contributes to the health and well being of a mother, helps in child spacing and reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancers.

She said it also increases family and natural resources as it is less expensive and saves cost from hospital bill.

On immunization, the health director harped on the need to give children full course of immunization before their first birthday.

She said that about 200,000 children in Nigeria die each year from diseases that could have been prevented with vaccines.

Ayoka identified the 13 killer diseases that have vaccines that could be given according to immunization schedule to prevent the diseases to include tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, measles, yellow fever, tetanus, pneumonia, rotavirus aside others.

“Strict compliance to appointments during routine immunization equips the child’s immune system to fight any of the preventable diseases while the contrary becomes the case when the immunization were not received appropriately,” she said .

She said there was still need for parents to recognize when sick children need treatment outside the home and take them to the appropriate health providers for health care .

“Appropriate care seeking requires that a household recognizes when a child is ill, can interpret when an illness needs to be treated outside the home and seek timely and appropriate medical care,” she said.

Ayoka added that safe disposal of faeces and washing of hands with soap after defaecation and before preparing meals and feeding children was very important.

“Faeces are more dangerous source of faecal contamination in the household environment.

“Indiscriminate defaecation in the environment which are left open will later contaminate utensils, foods, hands and water with faecal pathogens and resultant- oral diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera,” she said.

She harped on effective handwashing, antenatal care for pregnant women adding that families of pregnant women should encourage them to attend antenatal care and emphasize on keeping of appointments and taking of their drugs.

Ayoka hinted on the need for communities to totally eradicate female genital mutilation which she said is an infringement on the girl child and women’s right.

Mrs Violet Igwe, Social Mobilisation and Technical Committee (SOMTEC) Desk Officer in the Ministry of Information, earlier said the programme was aimed at enabling women have an understanding of how to manage their homes, family and children to protect them from killer diseases.

She said that UNICEF and NOA as international and national organisations have the interest of the girl child and women at heart and urged the women to not only imbibe what they would be thaught but take the message to other women in their various communities

NAN reports that UNICEF and NOA officers had earlier visited women of Apostolic Christian Church Mission, Obizi group Headquarters, Mbaise Division Ezinihite Mbaise Local Government Area, of Imo state still on the essential family practises.

The participants expressed gratitude to UNICEF and NOA for bringing the message to their door steps and promised to take the message home.


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