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Pakistan: Premature babies suffer as Islamic clerics withdraw approval for breast milk bank, shuts down ‘haram’ initiative in less than 2 weeks

Dr Syed Rehan Ali of the Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology lamented, "The milk bank was one way of reducing our dismal neonatal mortality rate."

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has shut down its first ‘breast milk bank’ in Karachi within 12 days of its inauguration, following fatwas from Islamic clerics and organisations.

The said milk bank was launched on 12th June this year after more than a year’s work put up by doctors at the Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) in collaboration with UNICEF.

Despite being in constant discussion with Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi and addressing all their concerns before the inauguration, SICHN was taken aback when the Islamic seminary withdrew its approval for the breast milk bank.

Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi claimed that the hospital would not be able to adhere to the strict conditions laid down by it. Thus, the milk bank could not deposit even one ounce of milking in 12 days of its operation.

While speaking about the matter to The Guardian, Pakistan Ulema Council Chair Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said, “The objective of the doctors who wanted to set up the human milk bank may be in good faith, but we concur with Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi, and do not think it needs to be encouraged.”

As a result, the Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) had to shut down its operations in less than 2 weeks, reported The Jerusalem Post on 25th June this year.

Pakistan has high neonatal mortality rate

While speaking about the development, Dr Syed Rehan Ali of SICHN lamented, “The milk bank was one way of reducing our dismal neonatal mortality rate.”

Health Minister of Sindh province, Dr Azra Pechuho, stated, “If we want our premature babies to survive we have to have human milk banks in all our obstetric and paediatric hospitals.”

Reportedly, Pakistan has one of the highest neonatal mortality rates in the world with 42 deaths per 1,000 live births.

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