The first human milk bank in Vietnam opens in Danang, bringing life-saving technology to thousands of infants each year

February 16, 2017 by PATH

More than 500 human milk banks around the world protect infants from sickness and even death. Starting today, infants in Vietnam will benefit from this kind of care as well

Kate Davidson | (206) 302-4637 |

Danang, February 16, 2017—The first human milk bank in Vietnam opened today at the Danang Hospital for Women and Children. Supported by the Maternal and Child Health Department, Ministry of Health; the Danang Department of Health; and the international nonprofit organizations PATH and FHI 360 (through the Alive & Thrive initiative), the human milk bank will provide lifesaving donor milk to 3,000 to 4,000 at-risk infants each year.

Despite gains in child health in Vietnam, the mortality rate for children under 5 years old is still 22 deaths per 1,000 live births (Statistical Yearbook of Vietnam 2015). This means that every year over 33,000 children in Vietnam die before their fifth birthday (Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2015 Report). Studies have repeatedly shown that of all the known solutions to child mortality, human milk has the greatest potential impact on child survival. It is the most natural and best-suited option for babies, fostering strength, a healthy metabolism, and a robust immune system.

While all newborns can benefit from human milk, not all women are able to provide breastmilk; sometimes the mother is too ill or on medication incompatible with breastfeeding. For infants at greatest risk—pre-term, low weight, or orphaned—human milk banks offer the most powerful life-saving nutrition available.

Dr. Nguyen Duc Vinh, chief of the Maternal and Child Health Department at the Ministry of Health, echoed these sentiments: "Breastfeeding is the single most important factor in promoting child survival and good health. We hope that this first human milk bank ensures all babies in Danang can have access to lifesaving human milk, regardless of the circumstances in which they are born. This pilot will also provide the Ministry of Health with evidence of the need to replicate human milk banks in other health facilities across the country."

At the opening ceremony, Dr. Ngo Thi Kim Yen, director of Danang Department of Health remarked: "In recent years, the Danang Department of Health has put special attention into children's healthcare. Among the many activities that have been implemented, breastfeeding is the most important solution to boost optimal nutrition for children. The first human milk bank represents a benchmark in protecting infant's health. It will serve as a dedicated center to support breastfeeding and further improve children's healthcare in the city and region."

"We are proud that the first human milk bank in Vietnam is here at the Danang Hospital for Women and Children," said Dr. Tran Dinh Vinh, director of the Hospital. "We hope this can be the beginning of a national movement of human milk banks in Vietnam which could give so many babies across the country an equal chance at a healthy and successful life."

The human milk bank in Danang will collect, pasteurize, test, and safely store milk that has been donated by breastfeeding mothers and provide it to infants in need. The facility will also protect, promote, and support breastfeeding by providing lactation support for mothers.

With funding from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH and Alive & Thrive provided technical support to the Danang Hospital for Women and Children to establish the country's first human milk bank to meet international standards. The two organizations trained staff, sourced high quality equipment, communicated about the human milk bank to potential donor mothers and the general public, and developed operational guidelines and standard operating procedures to ensure efficiency and safety in the facility.

"We know human milk works, and best of all, it's readily available. We just need to manage it so that no baby is left behind. Here at PATH we have seen human milk banks save children's lives around the world, with successful models in countries like South Africa and India. Now, we look to Vietnam," said PATH's Mekong regional director, Ramona Byrkit.

Program director of Alive & Thrive in Southeast Asia, Roger Mathisen, expressed support for this important initiative, saying, "Alive & Thrive will continue to support this groundbreaking facility as it becomes an integral part of newborn care within the Danang Hospital for Women and Children. Nothing can support immediate survival, short-term gains, or lifelong benefits in the same way as human milk. We can't wait to see babies receive the first donations!"

For more information about the human milk bank at the Danang Hospital for Women and Children, including how to donate or receive milk, please visit or

Danang Department of Health

The Department of Health is an administrative agency under the direction and management of the People's Committee of Danang City and under the technical direction, guidance, inspection, and monitoring of the Ministry of Health.

The Danang Department of Health is responsible for supporting the People's Committee of Danang City to provide preventative and curative healthcare. This includes preventive medicine, treatment of illnesses, rehabilitation, traditional medicine, food safety, regulation of medical equipment, population policies, and health insurance.

For more information about the Danang Department of Health, please visit

Danang Hospital for Women and Children

The Danang Hospital for Women and Children is a first-ranked hospital in the field of pediatrics and obstetrics with 900 planned beds and 1765 actual beds. The hospital is responsible for health care for the women and children of Danang city and neighboring provinces. The hospital has been designated one of three centers of excellence for early essential newborn care in Vietnam by the World Health Organization and the Maternal and Child Health Department in the Ministry of Health.

Each year, the Danang Hospital for Women and Children welcomes 13,000–15,000 births. There are 350,000 physician visits and inpatient treatment cases each year, and the hospital receives over 30,000 women and more than 50,000 pediatric patients. The hospital's neonatal pediatrics department provides treatment for approximately 120 babies with low weight, premature birth, or illness every day, and is also a training center for neonatal care for many domestic and international hospitals. Providing the best health services for women and children is the main objective of the hospital, including breastfeeding promotion to help children have the perfect start at life and supporting women to prevent disease.

For more information about the Danang Hospital for Women and Children, please visit

Alive & Thrive

Alive & Thrive is an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and contribute to healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices. Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days, from pregnancy to two years of age, is critical to enable all children to lead healthier and more productive lives. Alive & Thrive is scaling up improved infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and maternal nutrition through large-scale programs in several countries in Asia and Africa and through strategic technical support and the dissemination of innovations, tools, and lessons learned worldwide. Alive & Thrive is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of Canada and Ireland, and managed by FHI 360. Find out more at