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First Human Milk Bank initiative suspended in Pakistan over religious concerns

ISLAMABAD: The Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) said this week Pakistan’s first human milk bank established earlier this month had been suspended awaiting further guidance from the Council of Islamic Ideology.

SICHN official said that “The Human Milk Bank was established after seeking and receiving a fatwa from Darul Uloom Karachi, which provided us with the necessary religious endorsement to proceed. However, a recent revised fatwa issued by Darul Uloom Karachi dated June 16, 2024 has prompted us to discontinue the functionality of the Human Milk Bank,”

Pakistan’s first Shariah-compliant Human Milk Bank and Early Childhood Center at SICHN was inaugurated by Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, along with officials from UNICEF and the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), a few weeks ago.

It was planned to provide breast milk to premature babies who could not receive the required nutrition from their mothers.

Sharing the purpose of the project, the spokesperson stated that, “The premature babies are of 34 weeks or less gestation and they have less than 2kg weight. Most of the mothers having such babies do not have this much breast milk that could meet children’s nutrition requirement.” The human milk bank was established to particularly deal with this challenge.

The SICHN official said the Muslim children would be provided milk of Muslim women only. Whereas, the service would be offered free of cost to dispel the impression of commercial exchange, the spokesperson added.

To avoid future incestuous marriages between so-called milk siblings, the tenet says, the foster relationship must be clearly delineated. Since milk bank donors are typically anonymous and the donations are often combined, the practice is rejected in most of the Muslim world.