The UK Government has announced plans to fund a Sh65 million human milk bank at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital, in an effort to improve the health of vulnerable newborns.
The human milk bank at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital will be the first in East Africa.
According to British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey, the human milk bank will be launched in April.
“This will be symbolic of the importance our respective governments place on improving newborn health and life opportunities in Kenya,” he said.
A human milk bank (HMB) ideally facilitates the collection, pasteurization, testing, and safe storage of donated milk from lactating mothers, which is then provided to infants in need.
Breast milk improves child survival
Despite global gains in child health, 4.6 million babies still die in their first year of life—nearly 3 million in the first 28 days. In Kenya, the neonatal mortality rate stands at 22 deaths per 1000 live births.
Breast milk has been cited as one of the key interventions that have the greatest potential impact on a child’s survival.
According to Path, a global leader in newborn care and nutrition, scaling up breastfeeding to a near-universal level could prevent an estimated 823,000 deaths in children under the age of five worldwide every year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants are exclusively breastfed up to six months.
The milk bank concept was initiated in Vienna in 1909. Since then other countries have established Human milk banks with Brazil, South Africa, India, Canada, Japan and France being among the pioneers.
In some countries, mothers have also adopted the practice of wet nursing, whereby a mother breastfeeds another mother’s child.