iThemba Lethu Breastmilk Bank began 16 years ago and was the first community based human milk bank to open in South Africa. It is situated in Manor Gardens, Durban in a transition home for babies orphaned or abandoned as a result of HIV. Many of the babies arrive ill and malnourished. Prof Anna Coutsoudis, who headed up the NGO, realized that giving these babies donor breastmilk would go a long way to address many of the problems they were experiencing and provide them with optimum nutrition. So with funding from UNICEF, the human milk bank was opened. Over the years it has substantially improved the quality of life of the babies at the home, they have gained weight and thrived.
Although the Bank is equipped with a Sterifeed Pasteurizer enabling the pasteurizing of large volumes of milk, the cycle is time consuming and is not practical to use when a small amount of milk needs to be urgently pasteurized. In August 2016, the iThemba Lethu Breastmilk Bank was the recipient of a Pi Astra pasteurizing system, thanks to the GSK/Save The Children Health Innovation Award. This compact, ingenious user-friendly pasteurizing system has facilitated quick pasteurising of small quantities of breast milk for babies placed in the home and in private/public hospitals around the greater Durban area. In addition it has allowed the Bank to be a demonstration site for other smaller organizations that want to set up human milk banks with PiAstra pasteurization systems.