Following the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan, people around the world want to help out and send support in any way possible. While support is greatly needed, there’s one donation that does more harm than good: infant formula.
The department of health has been active in encouraging breastfeeding in the Philippines. They have a policy in place that bans donations of infant formula to those living in temporary shelters during tragedy, such as the recent typhoon. Government officials and hospitals in Manila are asking nursing mothers across the nation to donate breast milk to those affected by the typhoon in the central Philippines. Clean drinking water is scarce at this time and mixing infant formula with contaminated water could be fatal.
“Mixing formula with dirty water would be deadly for babies. Breastfeeding babies even at the best of times, even when there is no disaster, is the best thing you could do for a baby. It is absolutely vital that women are supported to breastfeed their babies fully for six months,” said Julie Hall, the Philippines’ World Health Organization (WHO)’s representative.
Dirty water aside, formula donations could also dissuade mothers to breastfeed their babies. Breast milk donations will not be accepted from outside the country for the same reason. Dr. Jessica Anne Dumalag, of Manila’s Philippine General Hospital’s (PGH) Human Milk Bank, told Gulf News, “If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you can help ease babies’ plight in Visayas and other Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan)- hit areas by sharing the milk you give your own children. Milk from lactating mothers is preferred over formula milk, which is basically processed cow’s milk.” Breast milk donations will be pasteurized, frozen, and stored in insulated containers before being shipped to evacuation centers in needed areas. An estimated 12,000 babies will be born in the typhoon hit areas, so breast milk donations are greatly needed.
If you’re in the Philippines and are able to, donate breastmilk. If not, you can still help affected areas by donating money to reputable organizations, such as the Red Cross.
Photo credit: World Health Organization Philippines Annual Report