President Bidhya Devi Bhandari amidst a function inaugurated ‘Amrit Kosh,’ the first milk bank of Nepal, at the Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Kathmandu on Friday. The milk bank is an important step towards ensuring baby-friendly health systems and gives premature, low birthweight and other at-risk infants access to the vast benefits of breastmilk when they need it the most, said a press release issued by UNICEF Nepal.
Every year, around 15 million babies are born preterm around the globe. In lower-middle-income countries like Nepal, an estimated 81,000 babies are born preterm. Children face the highest risk of dying in their first month of life and preterm and low birthweight babies are at even higher risk. According to the Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (NMICS) 2019, the neonatal mortality rate (number of deaths per 1000 live births during the first 28 days of life) in Nepal is 16. Similarly, the infant mortality rate (number of deaths per 1000 live births, which are under 1 year of age) is 25 and the under-five mortality rate is 28 per 1000 live births.
“Human breast milk contains the best source of nutrition and ensures survival and healthy growth of babies. It bolsters brain development and has lifelong benefits for the baby and the mother,” remarked Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, Director, Family Welfare Division, Ministry of Health and Population. “The human breast milk contains antibodies which cannot be found in any other sources.
Exclusive breastfeeding has the potential to prevent 13 per cent of under-five deaths globally each year, according to experts. Early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth in addition to exclusive breastfeeding can cut down 22 per cent of all newborn deaths worldwide.
In Nepal, only 42 per cent of children under 2 years of age are breastfed within one hour of birth and 62 per cent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, according to NMICS 2019.
“Premature, low birth weight and small for gestational age babies are vulnerable in terms of survival and cognitive development and usually have feeding problems due to their medical conditions,” said Prof. Dr. Amir Babu Shrestha, Director, Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital. ‘Amrit Kosh,’ the human m, test and store safe donor human milk from lactating mothers and then provide it to infants in need. The centre has been established in partnership between the Government of Nepal, the European Union and UNICEF.