Croatia is opening its first human milk bank
Zagreb, 1 August 2017
The establishment of the first human milk bank in Croatia was announced during the marking of the 27th World Breastfeeding Week (1-8 August). The project was initiated by the Croatian Breastfeeding Support Group (HUGPD), with the support of the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, with a view to providing the best possible care for premature babies.
The project and aims of the first human milk bank were presented by the leader of the working group and president of HUGDP, Dinka Barić, while the assistant director of the Clinical Hospital Centre Zagreb, Dr Milivoj Novak, announced that the opening of the milk bank is planned in the premises of the Clinical Hospital Centre Zagreb. The preparation of the project documentation is under way, with the current estimated value of the investment amounting to HRK 2 million (USD 300,000), in addition to the costs of the adaptation of the premises.
An average of 2,000 children in Croatia are born prematurely, and out of this number 400 are in need of intensive medical care. Breastmilk is crucial for their survival and development. Premature babies who are given breastmilk have a much lower risk of contracting serious infections and developing long-term complications, and they also need to spend less time in hospital.
"When infants cannot receive their mother’s milk for medical reasons, the milk bank provides donated milk, which works both as nourishment and treatment for premature babies and sick infants."
“Breastfeeding protection, promotion and support is a public-health priority for Croatia, hence a number of strategic documents of the Republic of Croatia are aimed at promoting breastfeeding and its multiple benefits. The establishment of a human milk bank has been recognised as a key investment in the wellbeing of the youngest children and is part of the 2018-2020 Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Health. I would like to take this opportunity to thank UNICEF and all those who have contributed to this important initiative,” said Ružica Palić Kramarić, DSc, Assistant Minister of Health of the Republic of Croatia.
“Breastmilk is one of the most precious resources of our planet. It is the gold standard in the diet of the youngest children and of key importance for every infant, and, in particular, for a premature one. The Ministry of Health has recognised the value of this project and provided it with full support. We believe that when the time comes we can also encourage nursing mothers to donate their milk in order to help other mothers and their children,” said Valentina Otmačić, Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia.
UNICEF will provide financial and technical assistance for this valuable investment in the health of the youngest children. At the Milky Way humanitarian race on 9 and 10 September, UNICEF will bring together citizens, companies and public persons in order to ensure a good “start” for the first human milk bank in Croatia.
Human milk banks have a long tradition in Europe, the first one being founded in Vienna more than one hundred years ago. Today, there are 214 milk banks in Europe, and among neighbouring countries most (30) of them are active in Italy. The initial step on the path towards this initiative of establishing the first milk bank in Croatia was made in 2012 by the RODA association, and, according to the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Health, the opening of the first milk bank can be expected in 2018.
There are now 31 Baby Friendly-accredited maternity wards in Croatia that promote high standards of care and support to breastfeeding to mothers and infants.