“The number of pregnant KZN women who book for antenatal clinics during the first five months has risen from 40% to 72% in just three years, thanks to the efforts of Community Care Givers (CCGs),” said KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Queen Nandi Memorial Hospital recently.

“This means that healthcare professionals are now able to detect more underlying ailments such as HIV, hypertension and others – which may pose a threat to the pregnant woman and her unborn baby – much earlier,” said the MEC.

Speaking at the 100th anniversary ceremony, Dhlomo said, “It is encouraging to notice that we’re already seeing the results of mothers who are pregnant and come to our clinics early, before 20 weeks. Currently, up to 72% are attending our antenatal clinics for the first time. When we started with this campaign, only 40% of pregnant women were coming forward during this period. This is an amazing story because it gives us a very positive outcome. Most of those women, if they’re HIV positive they’ll be started on treatment much earlier. If those mothers have any other illness and a need for any treatment, we’re able to intervene much earlier. And we guarantee them a safe and good life. That is why transmission of HIV from the mother to the baby has been so significantly reduced.”

According to Dhlomo, KZN has managed to reduce the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 20% in 2008 to the current 1,2%.

Dhlomo, however, expressed concern that some children still suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition, and pledged that government will work hard to reduce its incidence.

“That is something that we should have wiped away a long time ago through operation Sukuma Sakhe. We’ll have to strengthen those programmes, because we’ve already identified which part of the province these children come from, which means we’ll have to go to those areas that were reported.”

He encouraged women to breastfeed their babies exclusively, at least for the first six months of their lives, and also adhere to the immunization schedule.

“There will always be childhood diseases, but children who are breastfed, and who receive their immunization, will enjoy protection from such diseases so that they can grow and develop and realise their potential,” said Dhlomo.