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Provinces prioritise health of pregnant women, babies

Written by Samona Murugan and SAnews
As concern grows over the number of pregnant women and newborn babies dying from preventable medical complications, provincial departments of health are stepping up efforts to reduce such deaths.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said despite the progress made in the province, “maternal and child mortality continue to be unacceptably high”.

One of the major reasons was because pregnant women visited health facilities late in their pregnancies, he pointed out.

In a quest to reduce the high maternal mortality rate in the province, three District Clinical Specialist Teams have been employed in each district to provide support to district hospitals and clinics.

In addition, the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality in Africa was also adopted and launched in the Mkhondo Municipality recently to implement basic interventions that promote the health of women and children.

As part of this campaign, Maternity Waiting Homes will be established in all district hospitals to eliminate delays in accessing maternity care during emergencies.

“We call on all families and communities to support the welfare of women and children,” urged the Premier.

In the Free State, Premier Ace Magashule said making sure that mothers had safe deliveries and ensuring the survival of newborn babies was among of the province’s key priorities.

To tackle the issue, the provincial Department of Health launched a campaign to educate communities about the dangers of unplanned pregnancies and the risks of sexually transmit- ted infections, including HIV/AIDS, as part of Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Week held in February.

Health promoters visited high schools and communities across the province to address various topics linked to teenage pregnancy and urged expecting mothers to visit a clinic as soon as they found out that they were pregnant. The aim was to empower learners with information on reproductive health so that they can make wiser choices.

So far the province’s efforts to curb maternal and child mortality has paid off with the province’s under five mortality rate dropping from 53 per 1 000 live births to less than 30 per 1 000 live births.

However, Premier Magashule emphasised that more could be done.

In Gauteng, Health MEC Hope Papo urged young men and women to know their reproductive health rights and responsibilities.

“Contraceptive services are freely available at all public health institutions. Young men and women are encouraged to practice the ABC strategy which is: Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomise in order to avoid unplanned pregnancies and infections,” MEC Papo said. He encouraged young people to delay engaging in sexual activities until they were old enough to take full responsibility for their actions.

The Gauteng Department of Health has seen a significant increase in the number of pregnant women who visit clinics for antenatal care before 20 weeks gestation.

More than 40 per cent of pregnant women attended antenatal classes, allowing health professionals to identify pregnancy related complications at an early stage and ensure that they gave birth to healthy babies.

This, according to the department, is an improvement from the 34.6 per cent who got antenatal care in the last financial year. In that year, 203 865 babies were born in health facilities across Gauteng.

The department is currently conducting a campaign at Vaal University of Technology, which will focus on reproductive health for men and women, contraceptives, cancer and condom demonstration.

The Department of Health has called on pregnant mothers and their partners to visit clinics to learn more about pregnancy and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

For more information contact the Department on 012 395 8000.