By Nwosu Anulika Princess ROI, PV/PMSS, NAFDAC Head Quarters Abuja


It is no doubt that adequate nutrition promotes good health for every living being. For children it is even more critical as globally, more than one third of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition. Undernutrition is an important underlying cause of illness and death in Africa especially among women and young children – probably contributing to more than half the deaths among under five year olds.


The result of undernutrition is that growth slows down, common childhood infections last longer and are more frequent and serious. Undernourished children are at high risk of permanently stunted growth and development. The period during which undernutrition has the most severe consequences {often cannot be fully reversed} is from conception until the age of two years.

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce mortality in infants and young children. Initiating breastfeeding within the first day after birth lowers mortality, even in exclusively breastfed infants. Undeniably exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months followed by appropriate complementary feeding practices, with continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years or beyond, provides the key building block for child survival, growth and healthy development. This is also the infant and young child feeding practice recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Following the provisions of the UN Declarations on child’s right and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act, the human right to adequate food and nutrition more especially breastfeeding needs to be interpreted for the special case of young children because they are vulnerable. More so because others make the choices for them by influencing their feeding even though their diets are not diverse.

The declaration of the rights of the child adopted by the UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV) of 10 December 1959 state that “The Child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 also provides that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food ... " Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights recognizes "the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger." Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that "States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health" and shall take appropriate measures "to combat disease and malnutrition" through the provision of adequate nutritious foods, clean drinking water, and health care.

In Nigeria, the Child Rights Act (CRA) 2003, section 13 talks about A Child’s right to health and health services. The section has the following provisions;


Section 13 (1) Every Child is entitled to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health.

Section 13 (2) Every Government, parent, guardian, institution, services, agency, organization or body responsible for the care of a child shall endeavour to provide for the child the best attainable state of health.


Furthermore, in the same Section 13 No. (3) Stipulates that Every Government in Nigeria shall (a) endeavour to reduce infant and child mortality rate (c) ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water (e) combat diseases and malnutrition within the framework of primary health care for children.


Mother’s breast milk protects the baby against illness by either providing direct protection against specific diseases or by stimulating and strengthening the development of the baby’s immature immune system. This protection results in better health, even years after breastfeeding has ended. This optimal practice contributes to the highest standard of health for infant and young children and thus forms an integral part of the Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the highest attainable standard of health.


In feeding young children, there are many players with various interests and influence. But by far the most important players are the mother and the child. Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says, "In all actions concerning children...the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." The child has great interests at stake, but few resources to be used to press for preferred outcomes. Given the child's powerlessness and vulnerability, it is sensible to use the law to help ensure that the best interests of the child are considered. For the purposes of framing appropriate law, the woman and child can be viewed as generally having a shared interest in the child's well-being. From the human rights perspective, the major concern is with protecting the woman-child unit from outside interference                                                                                    


Breastfeeding has undoubtedly proven to be a fundamental component of the reproductive process; it is the natural and ideal way of feeding the infant and a unique natal and emotional foundation for child development. This, together with its other important effects, on the prevention of infections, on the health and well-being of the mother, on child-spacing, on family welfare, on family and national economics, and on food production, makes it very essential. Hence it is important to promote breastfeeding to ensure better child growth and development. Pregnant and lactating mothers should also be protected from any influences that could disrupt the process.


Mother and child should be allowed to exercise this right regardless of the circumstance.The right of the child should be respected as this is pivotal to their survival and good health. All influencing parties in the child breastfeeding need to be adequately informed about the provisions of the human rights laws including the CRA which enables a child’s interest to be given top priority in the feeding process. This is because breastfeeding has profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development.


  1. Declaration Of The Rights Of The Child
     Adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV) of 10 December 1959
    http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/humanrights/resources/child.asp assessed on 18.1.13
    1. Children's right to adequate nutrition byGeorge Kenthttp://archive.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F154e/8F154E0d.htm
    2. International Breastfeeding Journal Debate

Child feeding and human rights by George Kentwww.internationalbreastfeedingjournal.com/content

  1. Breastfeeding and The Right of The Child To The Highest Attainable Standard of Health

Contribution to the General Comment on the Child’s Right to Health By the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/CallSubmissions_Art24/InternationalBabyFoodActionNetwork.pdf

  1. INFORMATION SHEET:               The Child’s Rights Act August 2007


  1. CHILD’S RIGHT ACT, 2003: Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazzette, No. 116 Lagos-23rd December 2003Vol. 90 Printed and Published by the Federal; Government Press, Lagos, Nigeria FGP 291/122003/2,500 (OL 158)
  2. Child Legal Definition      http://law.yourdictionary.com/child
  3. Black RE, Allen LH, Bhutta ZA, Caulfield LE, De Onis M, Ezzati M, Mathers C, Rivera J. Maternal and Child Undernutrition: Global and Regional Exposures and Health Consequences. Maternal and Child Undernutrition Series. The Lancet 2008; 371:243-260

UNICEF Nutrition http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_24824.html


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