Kenya hopes its first human milk bank will save infants’ lives

Every morning at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi, a group of new mothers files into a spacious room housing Kenya’s first human milk bank. The room, freshly-painted aqua blue and bustling with nurses, is lined on either side with private lactation booths separated by curtains speckled with hearts and stars. They’re there to donate their extra breast milk to the hospital’s premature babies in need.

That need is great: fifteen to twenty premature babies are born at Pumwani every day.

One of the leading causes of deaths of children under five is complications related to births that happen before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is a global problem, but one that is unevenly distributed. More than 60% of premature births happen in Africa and South Asia. Of the 10 countries with the highest rates of preterm births, eight are in Africa. In Kenya, 13,300 kids under five die every year as a result.

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