The Baby Milk program provides milk and nutrition support to orphaned and undernourished babies in the impoverished district of Lukulu, in remote Zambia.
The program was initiated in 2006 when a Zambian medical superintendent at the local hospital requested assistance from the Loreto Sisters to help save the lives of four orphaned babies. Since the program’s inception, the lives of hundreds of babies have been saved by the provision of milk formula and nutrition.
Only babies of those mothers who cannot breastfeed for a medical reason or who have insufficient breast milk to provide adequate nutrition for the baby are admitted into the program.
The people of Lukulu, Zambia, suffer great deprivations in comparison to the rest of the country. The population is currently around 96,000, and the poverty level stands at 98%. This remote region can only be accessed via a long and poorly maintained dirt road.
An ongoing challenge faced by the program is the rising cost of milk, and with the present global economic situation as it is, this is likely to continue. The Loreto Sisters are trying to counteract this problem by securing donors and keeping some reserve funds to ensure an adequate milk supply, even if costly. Babies in need require milk no matter the cost and cannot wait indefinitely for funds to be secured.
The project succeeds in providing essential nutritional support in the form of formula milk or high energy protein supplements to hundreds of vulnerable and orphaned babies. With 17% of the Zambian population HIV positive, many babies are orphaned or unable to be breastfed by their mothers after the age of 6-months due to the risk of mother-to-child transmission.
The program operates from the Sancta Maria Mission and two rural health centres located across the Lukulu district.
At the Mission, two volunteers distribute milk regularly each week to those enrolled in the program. The babies and their carers attend and receive milk each week or fortnight, and their progress is monitored. Once the baby is growing well and thriving, usually between 15-18 months, they may be discharged from the program.
Health education and training are also given to parents and guardians by program health workers at the distribution centre.