Human milk has the greatest impact on child survival. So impactful is this “white gold” that it has the potential to prevent over 823,000 deaths (13 per cent of all deaths) in children under five in the developing world (Lancet 2016).
The recently launched breast milk bank at Kenya’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital is a welcome move in the fight against neonatal deaths.
Through a local news agency, about 80 per cent of Kenyan women interviewed indicated they would donate their breast milk to a human milk bank, and 60 per cent said they would allow their children to be fed with the milk.
Before setting up the milk bank, the Africa Population Health Research Centre conducted a feasibility study on the perception of such a facility. The findings were positive and indicated that 99 per cent of the mothers interviewed agreed that breast milk was very important for the health of newborn babies.
WHO recommends donated human milk as a lifesaving alternative for children with no access to their own mothers’ milk. The breast milk bank that was launched at Pumwani Maternity Hospital aims to bridge the gap by providing lifesaving breast milk to these babies.
South Africa is the only other country in Africa with a breastmilk bank. Launched in 2003, it has helped more than 10,000 babies since its inception. It feeds nearly 3,000 every year, supplying over 75 hospitals with donated human milk. If the same structure, or even a better one, is developed in Kenya, then thousands of babies can be saved from premature death.