When Njabulo was born, his mother gave him the perfect food—breast milk. But she died when he was just two months old, leaving the infant without the source of nutrients he so needed and the antibodies to keep him free from illness. Njabulo was in dire shape when he was placed in a transition home for HIV-exposed infants. Fortunately, the home was one of the few places in South Africa with a human milk bank. Fed donated mother’s milk, the tiny infant began to thrive.
Human milk banks are crucial for the survival of babies like Njabulo—those who are orphaned, premature, or underweight at birth. Because PATH believes that all babies deserve the lifesaving protection and nutrition of breast milk, we are making it easier and more affordable for countries to introduce milk banking.
Donated milk must be pasteurized to kill potential pathogens, such as HIV and hepatitis, but commercial-grade pasteurizers are extremely expensive. With support from our donors, PATH worked with the University of Washington and the Human Milk Banking Association of South Africa to develop an easy-to-use and inexpensive pasteurization system—guided by mobile phones.
Our mobile phone app provides directions and monitors a simple heat-flash pasteurization process and then transmits data to quality assurance supervisors.
Now infants in four neonatal intensive care wards in South Africa are being fed donor milk—safely and affordably. With other South African hospitals urgently requesting the system, donors have stepped forward again to expand its use. We also hope to introduce it in other countries where vulnerable newborns are just as much in need of the perfect baby food.