Strong formula for healthy babies
Unemployed, HIV positive, but still pregnant
Support from a local bank helps a support centre in Katutura to supply mothers with formula milk for their infants. For the past three years, Standard Bank Namibia has spent N$750,000 to buy formula milk for the babies of Mount Sinai Centre in Soweto, Katutura.
The artificial milk helps save the lives of babies whose mothers are HIV positive by substituting bottle feeding for breast feeding. This initiative also forms part of the Ministry of Health’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme.
A total of 1271 babies’ lives have been saved since the programme started during the period 2011 and 2013. This is a significant increase from the previous number of only 543 babies from 2005 to 2009.
Founder of the centre, Christaline Vega-Biart said the figures show that more than double the number of infants turned out to be HIV negative and have been discharged from the centre in good health. She said she appreciates the financial assistance from Standard Bank as many innocent babies’ lives have been saved and are now living a healthy life with their parents outside the centre.
Soon after birth, the mothers are referred from hospital directly to the centre upon which they receive the milk formula free of charge for their babies up to age 1-year. Thereafter the babies are weaned with nutritional food until they leave the centre at the age of 2.
There are currently 260 babies registered at the centre who will continue to benefit from this programme until they are two years old when they get discharged.
On a monthly basis, each mother receives 6 tins of 400g Lactogen starter infant formula milk. Assistants at Mount Sinai weigh the babies, record their data and keep the files for future reference. The mothers are also shown how to prepare the formula milk and how often to feed their babies to ensure that they grow healthily.
Okahandja Park resident 33-year old Veronica Alex, a mother of twin baby boys was more than happy to receive her milk parcel. “It is really aGodsend, because this milk is very expensive in the shops and I won’t be able to afford it. In the shops a tin like this one will cost me about N$38.00 and I am unemployed,” said Alex fastening her 7-month old boys in the baby carrier before walking back home.
For HIV positive mother Maria Ndjigwa desperate times of poverty almost made her want to dump her baby in Goreangab Dam. However thanks to the helping hand at Mount Sinai Centre she is today a proud mother of a healthy 5-year old girl Claudia Iindombo who attends school at Augeikhas Pre-Primary.
“God saved my child and I am grateful today that I never gave up her. Now I’m even helping other mothers to come and collect their milk here, instead of breastfeeding,” said Ndjigwa.