The coronavirus pandemic is drying up life-saving supplies at a Cape Town breast milk bank. Milk Matters provides screened, pasteurised breast milk for premature babies in hospitals across the Western Cape. Due to COVID-19, it’s running dangerously low on stock, while demand for life-saving milk continues to increase.
The fridges and freezers at Milk Matters should be filled with donated breast milk but they’re largely empty, as the demand for the life-saving liquid outweighs supply.
Breast milk is crucial for premature babies in hospitals as it helps strengthen their immune systems.
Dietician Carène Joubert said, “it has so many protective factors in it, antibodies, immune factors, the perfect nutrition for that baby and it’s alive, and that’s what makes it so special.”
Usually, Milk Matters would be able to supply seven litres of breast milk which can feed over 40 babies a day. Now stocks fluctuate between three to six litres a day.
During the first wave of COVID-19 infections, Milk Matters was able to keep up with the demand from hospitals. But the second wave has hit the NPO hard, with fewer donors and more mothers unable to provide their babies with breast milk in hospital.
Milk Matters CEO Jenny Wright said, “this time it’s been more moms who’ve been seriously ill themselves and they are in hospital because of them being ill.
The challenge has been meeting that increased demand, because if the mothers aren’t there to give them milk or they can’t afford or don’t have somebody else to bring it in when they’re not allowed to travel, then what are those babies going to get? They’re at high risk if they get anything other than breast milk.”
Milk Matters is hoping its annual Dresses for Lives fundraiser will bring in enough funds to keep breast milk donations flowing.
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