For some Islamist clerics, milk banks are contrary to Islam because people who drink the same woman's milk cannot marry together. Some 30 children per thousand die from malnutrition in Bangladesh.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Institute of Child and Mother Health, a private hospital in Matuail (Dhaka Division), was scheduled to launch Bangladesh’s first human milk bank last month, but could not start because of opposition from Muslim radicals.
The bank was set up in order to counter widespread child malnutrition in one of the countries in the world most affected by the problem. For radical Muslim clerics however, the scheme violated Islamic law and must be scrapped.
The milk programme was supposed to feed up to 500 orphans and infants of working mothers, and was especially important since child nutrition is essential to avoid stunted growth in the newly born.
The project was set to open on 1st December, but has been postponed to a date to be determined. Its founder and coordinator, Dr Mojibur Rahman, raised funds from private donors to pay for it and brought all the equipment from Spain.
"I visited Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan to see their human milk banks,” he said. “I learnt their laws and talked with Muslim clerics. We were ready to begin our service, but because of the opposition of [local] Muslim clerics, we’ve paused the project for now.”
The doctor noted that he submitted the programme to the Islamic Foundation. As a Muslim, “I will not break any Islamic law.” For this reason, “I hope people will support us” in helping “malnourished and orphaned children.”
Bangladesh has “high rates of child malnutrition and stunted growth,” he added. “Thirty children die out of a thousand. Around 176 mothers per 100,000 die during child birth.”
National Tafshir Parishad, an Islamist group, sent a legal notice to the hospital, stopping the programme. A spokesman for the group, Ataur Rahman, said that “Sharia (Islamic law) does not allow milk banks. They would be against Islam. Milk banks create the risk of marriage between people who drank the same woman's milk.”
Other Muslim experts instead back the project. Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, president of the Islamlah Muslimin Council and Khatib (sermon leader) at the Eidgah in Sholakia, Kishoreganj district, is one of them.
“If other Muslim majority nations such as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Malaysia have created milk banks, Bangladesh can also set up this kind” of bank. “I think many children will benefit from the project,” he said. “We should see how they solved the issue.”
For Edward Pallab Rozario, a Catholic doctor, “Human milk banks are needed for orphans and critically ill children. They can save babies treated in intensive care units and those whose mothers are not available. I think Bangladesh should set up some human milk banks.”