TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines, 28 February 2019 – The Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) and UN children’s agency UNICEF inaugurated one of the largest human milk banks in the Philippines.
After Typhoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan) devastated the Philippines in November 2013, EVRMC, the only government tertiary training hospital in Region 8 was severely damaged. The typhoon and destruction of health facilities became problematic for a region that already had high levels of malnutrition even before the disaster.
UNICEF established an office in Tacloban City immediately after the typhoon for two years and included within its response long term recovery support and to build back better to promote sustainability. This included strengthening the cold chain to protect vaccines, establishing a Youth Hub, constructing the first disaster-resilient evacuation centre and training of teachers on Education in Emergencies, among others.
“UNICEF remains fully committed in supporting our partners who were affected by Yolanda. Five years after the typhoon, we are encouraged to see that Tacloban City and the rest of the region continues to rise, full of hope and promise,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander says.
EVRMC is the second Human Milk Bank UNICEF supported, the first one being Zamboanga City Hospital. EVRMC-HMB is unique because it is the hub of relief and rescue efforts in a typhoon prone region. The EVRMC Human Milk Bank has the potential to reach babies in need of breastmilk in six provinces, seven cities, 136 municipalities and 4,390 barangays. It was already able to provide 20 liters of breastmilk to help babies after a landslide in Biliran in 2017 caused by Tropical Storm Urduja.
UNICEF invested around Php 4 million to construct the Human Milk Bank and purchased essential equipment and supplies such as breast pumps, freezer, laminar flow hood, autoclave steam sterilizer and human milk pasteurizer. A human milk banking team composed of members from the Department of Pediatrics, Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, and the Nursing Department was established and trained to serve as the leaders of each hospital unit involved in the human milk banking operations.
“While the hospital relies on patients who delivered their babies in EVRMC to supply their extra breast milk, we call on lactating mothers in and around Region 8 to donate breastmilk. We especially call on health workers, breastfeeding support groups and advocates to spread the word about the EVRMC Human Milk Bank and to donate breastmilk to ensure that children in the whole region get the best start in life,” Sylwander adds.
EVRMC and UNICEF also call on local officials to support the human milk banking operations, strengthen enabling policies and programs to support breastfeeding, and promoting linkages with other medical facilities and professionals within the region.
For inquiries and breastmilk donations to the EVRMC Human Milk Bank, individuals and support groups are encouraged to contact Dr. Gemma Ramos (0917 977 9002), Dr. Audrey Santo (0917 321 4917) and Ms. Evangeline Varona (0916 323 6768).
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.