Premature deaths on the decline

This World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2018, the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) is celebrating the lives of almost 20 000 premature babies that have been saved through the provision of safe and necessary breastmilk, since their inception in 2003.

 

A premature baby fed human breast-milk through a nasogastric tube

 

“We are encouraged by the South African Institution of Race Relation’s (IRR) recent report that shows that infant mortality in South Africa is at the lowest level it has been in almost 20 years,” says Stasha Jordan, SABR Executive Director. The IRR released a report in May stating that infant mortality in the country fell from 48.1 per 1 000 live births to 32.8 per 1 000 live births between 2002 and 2017.

“Research shows that breastfed children have at least a six times greater chance of survival than those who are formula-fed,” says Jordan. “Breastmilk produced by mothers of preterm babies is designed to keep their babies alive. This breastmilk is the most cost-effective and powerful medicine we have in our arsenal against South Africa’s infant mortality rate, which is still too high, despite the encouraging progress,” she continues.

In an attempt to negate the possible long-term complications associated with premature births, such as sepsis and mortality for this very vulnerable population, the South African Department of Health has declared South Africa a ‘Breastfeeding Nation’ and are actively supporting human milk banking as an extension of national breastfeeding policy.

In the last 15 years, human milk banking services have been expanded to over 70 public hospitals in the most underserved and rural areas country-wide. Departmental representatives are looking to expand this even further with more milk banks opening in the future.

“We are grateful to the Departments of Health, both provincial and national, and other South African human milk banking interventions and stakeholders for the part they have played in saving the lives of premature babies and reducing the infant mortality rate,” says Jordan. “However, a recent National Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality Committee (NaPeMMCo) report indicates that neonatal deaths remain high and a priority area for the nation to address. We need to give our children every chance of survival and that means exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of every child’s life,” she says.

“The long-term effects of a mishandled premature birth is devastating and preventable. This World Prematurity Day, I urge everyone to get involved and help save our children,” concludes Jordan.


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