River Cess County has topped the stunting health statistics rate of 40% in Liberia.
Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from among other things poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
According to experts, a child is defined as stunted if their height for age is more than two standards deviation below the World Health Organization Children Growth Standards Median, something that is on the increase in River Cess County.
Unlike Montserrado County with 20% stunting rate, the rest of Liberia’s fourteen Counties especially rural Liberia account for the high and alarming rate of stunting to include Grand Bassa 34.7%, Margibi, 33.3%, Lofa 35.6% , Maryland 36.3% and Grand Cape Mount County 32.5% respectively.
The situation, which is alarming and worrisome, should be taken as a national emergency by duty bearers, said health authorities.
Currently, there is a bill (Code of Marketing of Breast -Milk Substitutes -CMBS) already passed by the House of Representatives in 2022 but is now at the Liberian Senate for concurrence.
According to health experts, adequate breastfeeding is one of the best ways to help reduce the alarming rate of stunting across rural Liberia.
As of 2019/ 2020, Liberia passed the World health organization threshold of 50% breastfeeding to 55%. However, there exist visible and huge challenges still confronting the sector.
The bill before the Liberian Senate, health officials say is, among other things meant, to help regulate the sector and to stop the flow of promotion of infants’ formula.
‘‘We are not stopping the importation but to stop the aggressive promotion of infants’ formula,” health officials clarified.
Currently, the issue of inadequate investment and prioritization nationally and locally, weak sector coordination especially at the local level as well as weak institutional capacity to deliver low Citizens engagement and activism and poor hygiene practice and lack of Clean water are described as obstacle issues that need to be addressed soon by national government.
Stressing the importance of breastfeeding, Health officials say breastfeeding helps protect babies from illnesses such as diarrhea and respiratory infection, others are the promotion of adequate growth development including bonding between the babies and their mothers.
Health officials also encouraged exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child because it is safe, clean ad has the right temperature and helps keep children healthy.
Meanwhile, due to the delay in the passage of the CMBS law by the Senate and as the delay drags even further , there are more children who are being born and are falling prey to stunting and the number and percentages may further increase if nothing is done in a timely manner and form.