South Africa: KZN Launches Human Milk Banks

Monday, June 1, 2015

Far too few South African women practice exclusive breastfeeding and, as a result, far too many children are dying.

Only just over 8% of South African women feed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of their lives although research shows that exclusive breast feeding is the best possible start they can give them in life.

A study in 2009 showed that 62 out of 1000 South African children had died before they reached the age of five and this figure had not changed since 1999 despite the huge improvements that democracy had brought in the form of housing, piped water, health facilities and social grants.

In some 34% of premature deaths, malnutrition was the underlying cause.

In KwaZulu Natal, another study in 2012 showed infant mortality down to 42 per 1000 live births. This year, the figure was further reduced to 31 infant deaths per 1000. This is still too high. The Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000 stipulate that there should be fewer than 20 deaths per 1000 by 2015.

In an attempt to reach this goal, the KwaZulu Natal Department of Health, in partnership with the University of KwaZulu Natal, is encouraging all women to breastfeed exclusively for six months. It is an ambitious initiative and includes the establishment of human milk banks throughout the province so that orphaned and premature babies and those with mothers too sick to breastfeed can also benefit. A call has gone out to healthy mothers to donate their breast milk.

Source: allAfrica (link opens in a new window)

Health Care