Kathmandu, July 26
Nine individuals today filed a public interest litigation at the Supreme Court demanding establishment of breast (human) milk banks in Nepal to ensure enough supply of breast milk for babies, who have not been able to get breast milk due to several reasons.
Advocates Niranjan Upreti, Raju Shakya, Shreya Upreti, Nurse Kripa Wagle, Lab technician Sapana Neupane and individuals Arohi Shrestha, Abishi Dahal, Kundan Kushwaha, and Dichen Gurung filed the petition in the apex court, arguing that establishing breast milk banks in Nepal was also necessary to reduce child mortality rate.
Stating that breast milk contains all kinds of nutrition that babies need for their growth, they argued that breast milk was vital to enhance immunity and prevent infection in children.
The petitioners argued that establishing human milk banks was necessary as all children may not have access to breast milk due to death or medical conditions of their mothers. Stating that cow milk, buffalo milk or powder milk cannot substitute breast milk, the petitioners said that high incidences of deficiency in child nutrition were linked to lack of children’s access to breast milk.
Establishing breast milk bank is necessary as breast milk cannot be substituted and wet nurses are not easily available and it would not be possible to produce breast milk in large quantity from wet nurses,” the petitioners argued in their petition. The petition said lactating mothers were throwing excess breast milk and if breast milk banks were established, these mothers would have a chance to provide their milk to those banks.
They said World Health Organisation had also recommended establishing a breast milk bank.
The first breast milk bank was established in 1909 in Austria. Petitioners have demanded that breast milk banks be established in appropriate places by formulating necessary directives.
The petitioners stated that although Mother’s Milk Substitute (Control of Sale and Distribution) Act, 1992 and Mother’s Milk Substitute (Control of Sale and Distribution) Regulations, 1994 were in place, those legal frameworks were not enough to govern the process of breast milk bank.
There are over 600 human milk banks in the world. According to Europe Milk Bank Association, there are 233 human milk banks in Europe. The petitioners have named the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister, Ministry of Health and Population and Minister of Health and Population as defendants.
World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively (breast milk only, with no other solids or liquids including water) for six months, and then introducing complementary foods at six months while continuing breastfeeding for at least two years. The first hearing of the case has been scheduled for Sunday.
A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.