Pakistan's first Human Milk Bank initiative suspended after new fatwa

Will consult Darul Uloom Karachi, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) over this matter, says SICHN spokesperson

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The building of the Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) in Karachi. — SICHN website
  • Spokesperson says its aim is children’s health, well-being.
  • Premature babies are below 34 weeks, less than 2kg, he says.
  • Giving premature kids other milk exposes to risks: SICHN.

KARACHI: After the issuance of a new fatwa (religious edict), the Sindh Institute of Child Health & Neonatology (SICHN) on Friday suspended the Human Milk Bank project — the country’s first such initiative.

In a statement, a SICHN spokesperson said they would consult the Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for further guidance over this matter.

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 intended 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 said, "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 spox said the human milk bank was established to particularly deal with this challenge.

“Giving them (premature kids) milk other than breast milk exposes them to the risk of complications, infections and early death. Therefore, to save the lives of these premature newborns, it is necessary to provide them breast milk,” the official further stated.

Clarifying doubts about the service, 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.

In December 2023, Darululoom Karachi issued a fatwa with preconditions "providing necessary religious endorsement to proceed" with the project, "however, a revised fatwa has prompted us to pause the functionality of the Human Milk Bank. This decision (of suspension) is in compliance with the updated religious guidance," the official added.

However, a revised fatwa by the seminary, issued on June 16, prompted the authorities to suspend the project till further guidance on the matter.