What you need to know:
- The expert said after identifying a donor, she undergoes a number of processes to guarantee safety of the milk.
The Ministry of Health last Friday launched Uganda’s first human milk bank at Kampala-based St Francis Hospital Nsambya in a move to curb high death rates among preterm babies.
A breast milk bank collects, screens, stores, processes, and distributes human milk to vulnerable preterm, sick babies and cases where mothers cannot breastfeed them.
Dr Victoria Nakibuuka, a paediatrician at the hospital, said about 20 percent of preterm babies that need breast milk within the first 48 hours don’t get the milk, thus causing death.
The expert said after identifying a donor, she undergoes a number of processes to guarantee safety of the milk.
“We administer a questionnaire to look at the lifestyle of the donor. If the donor is a drug addict or a smoker, definitely they will not qualify to donate,” she said. Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health, in a tweet said a mother(s) who donates human milk is nursing an infant “and have a milk supply that exceeds their own infant’s needs...”
Dr Nakibuuka said the milk bank would address the problem of high death rates and close gaps in medical care for the preterm babies.
“We hope to get the milk from mothers in the hospitals such as Rubaga and Mengo around Kampala before reaching out to the community,” she said.
The director of curative services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Charles Olaro, who officiated at the launch, said the government is benchmarking on the first establishment before expanding the initiative to other public hospitals.
“There is no factory for this [breast] milk in Uganda and it is only going to come from the mothers,” he said.
The innovation comes at a time when the country is registering about 226,000 babies who are born prematurely each year. This is out of around 1.6 million births in the country each year.
The death rate among children born prematurely can be as high as 31.6 percent in some hospitals in the country, according to a 2019 study by Dr Walufu Ivan Egesa on the burden of preterm birth.
About breast milk
According to World Health Organisation, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
However, nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months—a rate that has not improved in two decades.
Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs.