DAR-ES-SALAAM, Employers in both public and private sectors in Tanzania who deny nursing mothers their right to breast-feed their infants will face the wrath of the government, which is working with the World Bank to address issues of population growth, maternal health and nutrition in the country.

Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu disclosed this here Tuesday when launching Breastfeeding Wweek and the "Wazazi Nipendeni" programme, a text messaging service which offers free text messages in the Swahili language to pregnant women, mothers with children under five years as well as supporters of pregnant women and new mothers.

Mwalimu said working breastfeeding women are legally allowed to breast-feed their infants for two hours per day for a period of six months. She explained that in support of breastfeeding programmes, the government had enacted regulations stating clearly the period that women can continue breastfeeding after the three months of maternity leave which was not stated in the Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2004.

"The Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2004 did not make clear how long nursing mothers who are employed can breastfeed after the three months maternity leave. It only says for two hours a day," she explained.

She underscored the importance of breastfeeding infants up to six months without feeding them any other fluids, stressing that the mother's milk has important nutrients for safeguarding the child.

She added that statistics showed that 41 per cent of children under six months old are not exclusively being breastfed, contrary to expert advice to the nursing mothers. She also called on health officers to ensure that mothers breastfeed their newborns one hour after they are born.

She pointed out that concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including the government, were needed to curb malnutrition in the country, noting that success in reducing the national rate from 42 per cent to 34 per cent was good but the rate was still very high.