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Thursday, December 22, 2005(Hat tip to Jax over at the Making it Up blog for emailing me this link.)
There's a fascinating story in BBC News today about human breast milk donation in South Africa. Apparently, women in Durban are now offering up their excess milk to help provide immunity boosts to abandoned children in a country with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. (The article mentions that in one South African province, the infection rate among mothers at pre-natal clinics is more than 40%)
The story focuses on a transit shelter for abandoned children called Ithemba Lethu which is Zulu for "I have a destiny." The shelter provides abandoned children with food, care and in some cases, donated breast milk.
There have been some concerns about breastfeeding in some developing countries with high HIV rates. Partly due to concerns about transfer of the virus via breastfeeding but compounded by the high death rates for formula fed infants in countries that struggle with clean water supplies. A WHO study shows that non-breastfed infants are six times more likely to die from diarrhea or pneumonia and that babies who are exclusively breastfed (nothing but breastmilk) for six months have a very low chance of contracting HIV.
An article in the Yemen Times earlier this month stated that an infant that is not exclusively breastfed for the first two months of life is 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia.)
From the article:
Penny Reimers says volunteer mothers are rigorously screened before contributing the milk, to avoid HIV from being transmitted through the milk.
"In donor banks internationally they do blood tests on the mothers - we don't have the funding to do that so we screen by lifestyle," she says.
"Then we pasteurize the breast milk to kill off any HIV, hepatitis virus or bacteria that might be in the milk."
The breast milk project is the brain child of pediatrician Professor Anna Coustodis, who with her friends wanted to lend a hand in the fight against Aids.
The project has grown through word of mouth, over the last four years, and more than 100 mothers have become a part of it.