The government of the Dominican Republic is helping reduce infant mortality through running a breast milk bank in the country’s largest hospital, in partnership with Brazil’s development co-operation agency and the Fiocruz Foundation.

The “Human Milk Bank” has been working in the Nuestra Señora de Altagracia Maternity Hospital since 2011, and has reduced infant mortality by 21 percent in the hospital. The project is an example of effective South South Cooperation and development partnership.

Brazil provided Dominican Republic technical expertise garnered from more than 20 year experience running multiple human milk banks. Dominican experts were able to visit hospitals in Brazil with such facilities, and Brazilian infant health experts were on site to assist in the setting up of the Dominican bank. In addition to this co-operation with Dominica, Brazil has similarly worked with Cuba, Uruguay and Venezuela to export the milk bank idea.

¨We have the help of Brazil, which has a lot of experience running human milk banks,” says Mr. Nelson Felipe Valdéz, Director General of the Department of Bilateral Cooperation at the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development of Dominican Republic. “We work with the Minister of Health to implement it and the donors make it happen.”

Despite keeping pace with much of Latin American in human development, the Dominican Republic has a higher infant mortality rate than regional averages. This is due in part to the care it provides for Haitian mothers crossing the border to seek medical services, as well as high rates of teenage pregnancy. Younger mothers are statistically less likely to seek prenatal and other care during pregnancy, sometimes resulting in health issues for babies after they are born.

The donated milk comes from mothers at the hospital. Despite receiving no incentives, more than 3000 of them have donated 60,000 liters of their milk that have saved the lives of approximately 2000 newborns.

The Human Milk Banks project is ready to scale up. With the goal “to cover as many hospitals as possible, starting with the biggest and the poorest hospitals,” comments Valdéz, the initiative plans to open a second bank in 2015.

“South-south cooperation is an instrument that helps promote national, regional and global development,” says Valdéz. With this frame of mind, the Dominican Vice Ministry of Bilateral Cooperation has a range of initiatives with and for the region to address its national challenges and share its experiences.

Country-owned development is a central tenet of the Busan principles. Sharing knowledge and expertise, as Brazil is with the Dominican Republic, helps strengthen development with an eye on producing stronger impact. As a self-identified issue to tackle, the Dominican Republic is leading its own development through improving infant health.