Everything started with the Swedish company Viola Vitalis AB. The company is well-known because it has developed a Turnkey System for Human Milk Banks (HMB) to reduce child mortality. Viola Vitalis AB has successfully implemented milk banks in several Low and Middle-Income Countries. Considering the high rate of child mortality in Georgia together with several successful reforms achieved, the country was without a doubt in need and ready for the implementation of this service.
I find that significant initiatives always require patience, motivation and perseverance. Patience is needed when things do not go in the way or at the speed you want them to go. In my example, it took almost half a year until the business showed signs of progress. Motivation was needed to take action, and perseverance was crucial to move forward.
I first got a few negative responses to my initiative, but they didn’t bring me down. I was sure that, one day, I would see well functioning HMBs in Georgian hospitals that will help to save newborns at high risk of illness and death.
Photo: Discussion on the University’s HMB practice at Skåne University Hospital
After writing a 25-page long project summary and 12 organised meetings with public and private representatives in my home country, maternal and child health experts from the Ministry of Health of Georgia showed interest in HMB by visiting Skåne University Hospital, located in Lund.
August the 29th was a day full of networking and gaining knowledge with Professor Staffan Polberger, neonatologist and Swedish representative at the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA) and Ingrid Pupp, senior physician in paediatrics at Lund hospital. They taught us about the importance of donor milk and all the crucial steps in establishing milk banks to ensure safety and the quality of the donation.
We were warned that establishing this life-saving intervention has always been challenging in many countries. For instance, even though breast milk has had a long tradition in Sweden, there are only 28 active milk banks nowadays. Access to donor milk is indeed still limited in the country.
The Ministry of Health in Georgia is now in the process of giving a direct recommendation to the neonatal hospital units in favour of using human donor milk for premature infants instead of formula milk.
My proudest achievement is knowing that just a few months ago Human Milk Banks were unknown in Georgia, but today, most of the public and private representatives of Georgia’s healthcare are discussing Swedish HMB practices and benefits for children's health.
While I am still in a phase of waiting, I am deepening my knowledge in this particular field. I recently went to visit Stockholm’s Digitalmekanik founded in 1968 which has been cooperating with the Swedish construction industry and prototype manufacturing. It made me realise, once again, that it takes time to create something that can make a positive impact in the world.
Photo: Visiting Stockholms Digitalmekanik
I feel incredibly grateful to the Swedish Institute for the opportunity I have been given to make a change in my country. Let’s all share our experiences because, as we all know, there is nothing more important than education to change the world.