Mayra Malavé (IFF/Fiocruz)
On February 8, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed the results of its 2020 Dr. Lee Jong-wook Public Health award, won by the coordinator of the Global Network of Human Milk Banks (rBLH in the Brazilian Portuguese abbreviation) and researcher of the National Institute for the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents Fernandes Figueira (IFF/Fiocruz), João Aprígio Guerra de Almeida.
The award given by WHO pays homage to scientists and institutions from all over the world that have made progress in the field of health of populations. In the 2020 edition, the award acknowledges the work of João Aprígio, who has been promoting breastfeeding in Brazil and abroad since 1998, contributing to reducing child mortality rates.
The 2020 Dr. Lee Jong-wook Public Health award will be handed to the winner during a ceremony at the World Health Assembly to be held in Geneve, Switzerland, in May. “This acknowledgement is for us, for the Brazilian Unified Health Service, it is for all health workers that build that rBLH and it is, first and foremost, for Fiocruz, a house that allows us to dream and to get things done”, said Aprígio.
João Aprígio is coordinator of the Global Network of Human Milk Banks and researcher at IFF / Fiocruz (Photo: Fiocruz).
Global Network of Human Milk Banks
Breast milk contains everything a baby needs until their six months of life, protecting them against diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, and allergies. Human Milk Banks are therefore an essential strategy to reduce infant death. Brazil boasts the world’s largest network of human breast milk, with about 160 thousand liters of milk distributed every year. It is not surprising that our national model has been replicated in more than 20 countries, saving thousands of lives every year, all over the world.
In 2019, the countries that make up the Brics group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), as well as those of Mercosur (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), decided to create their Milk Banks to join the rBLH, based on the Brazilian experience not only in terms of collection and distribution (with a strict quality control system) of human milk to premature and low-weight newborns, but also when it comes to the promotion, protection and support provided to breastfeeding as an essential action to fight child mortality.