If you know a person is lying and making lots of money by lying, but they’re also doing a little bit of good within all that lying, does it make the lying O.K.? This is an honest, open-ended question, which I still have no answer for.
Now, completely different topic (lest you think that question above has anything to do with what I’m about to report)… Jill Youse is in the news again! She is ABC News’ Person of the Week this week. I almost died… Hyperventilating with laughter… When I saw that. Congratulations, Jill!
You know what I found really funny about the second ABC News report on the International Breast Milk Project? There was NO mention of a few really important details (which makes me think ABC News either did a sloppy job with this one or that these important details were deliberately not mentioned — why, I don’t know; could be for any number of reasons):
- Prolacta gets at least 75% of the milk donated to the International Breast Milk Project. According to the IBMP website, this 75% of the donated breastmilk is exchanged for a $1/ounce “donation” from Prolacta (in other words, Prolacta buys at least 75% of whatever is donated to the IBMP for $1/ounce). On an older version of the IBMP website, it used to say that 100% of this money would be donated to various African outreach organizations (like the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya). None of that money was actually donated, and then when I (and another blogger) started asking questions about the “100%,” the IBMP website was changed to say that, actually, some of that money would go to “operational expenses” within the IBMP. How convenient. It was vague enough that now there’s no telling how much will go to “operational expenses” within the U.S. and how much will go to Africa.
- The money received by the International Breast Milk Project in exchange for breastmilk, which, to date, is estimated at over $50,000 (probably well over double that figure by now, given how much time has elapsed, but let’s be conservative), was not mentioned in the ABC News report at all. The money the IBMP claims to have sent to Africa on its “September Update” page was donated privately, some of it by Prolacta’s other milk funnel, The National Milk Bank, to the IBMP. From the IBMP website:
“Because of your generosity, in addition to shipping thousands of ounces of donor milk to iThemba Lethu in Durban, South Africa, we have donated $13,000 to the Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya, another $15,000 for clean water and health care projects in Tanzania, and $5,100 for hospital equipment in Cameroon through Dr. Peter McCormick’s Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust.”
All that money the IBMP allegedly sent to Africa? The IBMP sent it before May 31, 2007… Before the IBMP allegedly started receiving money from Prolacta in exchange for the milk (according to Jill Youse, through email correspondence). All that money was privately donated, some of it from the National Milk Bank (again, according to Jill Youse, through email). Any money the IBMP made and donated after May 31, 2007, there is STILL no mention of anywhere, not on the IBMP website, not from Jill Youse through email correspondence (I asked, and last I heard from her, none of the money had been donated yet), and certainly not in the ABC News report. I do not know if the money has already been donated, or if it’s being put in a bank awaiting donation for the “early 2008″ construction of the Lewa Children’s Home clinic, or if it’s being used mostly to cover “operational expenses” now. Speaking of “operational expenses,” it’s difficult to know what percentage of the money made from selling milk to Prolacta will make its way to Africa. The ABC News report didn’t even mention money, so it’s not like I’m looking at ABC News as a reliable IBMP update information source, kwim?
- The ABC News report did not mention the dates of the milk shipments, or even how many total shipments to Africa have been made since the IBMP was founded. According to my tally (which was established by calling South Africa and asking Penny Reimers at iThemba Lethu how many shipments she received), there have been a total of four shipments already sent to Africa, not including the one that allegedly will be done now. If the 50,000+ ounces of breastmilk actually make their way to Africa (which I am confident that they will, since it’s so highly publicized), that will bring the grand total of shipments the IBMP has made since April 28, 2006 (the date of the first shipment) to FIVE (please, Anna Coutsoudis or Penny Reimers, if you can confirm or correct this, write me and I will). The total number of ounces donated by the IBMP to Africa would then be around 62,000 ounces in a year and six months. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, in absolute terms it is a lot, but if you compare it to the amount of milk the IBMP has received from generous breast milk donors, it’s actually a pittance. The IBMP received an estimated 65,000 ounces of breastmilk from its generous donors in just two months (June and July 2007)!!! From the IBMP “August 2007 Update” letter: “In June, we collected over 30,000 ounces of milk, and in July we collected over 35,000 ounces of milk.” If you assume the IBMP only receives half the lowest amount (30,000 ounces) for August and September, that’s an additional 30,000 ounces, also not going to Africa (because, according to the IBMP, the 50,000+ ounces of milk going to Africa right now were all donated before May 31, 2007). Details, details…
The first ABC News report on the International Breast Milk Project (aired October 4, 2006) also had a few important details missing. For instance, the report aired on October 4, 2006 and there was no mention of Prolacta. The milk that arrived in Africa for the second shipment (the one filmed in the first ABC News report) was raw breastmilk, unpasteurized. That shipment was delivered free by DHL. Prolacta had not officially partnered with the IBMP when the footage was filmed, but the partnership with Prolacta was in effect by the time the report aired (October 4, 2006). Oh, but it’s just details, and nobody will notice, right? Nobody except anyone who’s paying attention.
Look, I have nothing against a project that sends breastmilk to African orphans. Who would have a problem with a program like that? It’s altruism; it’s a beautiful, touching concept. More importantly, it gets people talking about (and therefore, normalizing) breastmilk (and by proxy, breastfeeding and lactation). Does the IBMP do more harm than good? I don’t know. More good than harm? Hard to say. Does the IBMP do some good in the world? Clearly, yes, in many ways. Is the harm is does worth it? I don’t know. That’s the part I have trouble with. The partnership with Prolacta cannot be ignored, and is not without negative consequences.
My only point in writing any of what I write is so that people become more informed and more aware of what’s really going on behind the scenes. If you have all the information at your disposal and you still feel like it’s a net benefit to donate to the International Breast Milk Project (and you are fully aware that if you do, you will forfeit any rights to your milk and that the majority of your milk — very likely ALL of it, statistically speaking — will actually go to Prolacta and be sold for a profit here in the United States and NOT make its way to Africa), I have NO problem with that. The part I have a problem with is the NOT knowing. The part that bothers me is that some really generous women will donate their breastmilk thinking that what they’re signing up for is not what they’re actually signing up for. …If you catch my drift.