Maternal instinct

Community plays a vital role in improving SA's maternal health

Maternal instinct
Community plays a vital role in improving SA's maternal health

The community has a fundamental role to play in promoting maternal health and improving its mortality rate. This is according to a recent maternal health roundtable hosted in Cape Town by World Vision South Africa, CATHCA (Catholic Health Care Association of South Africa) and the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO).

The roundtable emphasised that local community needs to support their own health and importantly aid community caregivers in their efforts to promote maternal health amongst pregnant women.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) an estimated 300 000 mothers worldwide die each year of maternal health issues. In South Africa this figure stands at almost *5 000 yearly with KwaZulu/Natal accounting for the most deaths at 400 mothers per year.

Maternal mortality is defined by the WHO as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of delivery, miscarriage or termination of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. 

The promotion of maternal health forms part of the outputs of the local health sector’s Negotiated Service Delivery Agreement (NSDA) 2010 – 2014; Campaign on the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and internationally it is Goal 5 of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

The roundtable also placed the spotlight on the all-important role of community caregivers which have in the last few years become instrumental in ensuring that particularly rural communities receive adequate healthcare. This role also extends to pregnant women and their wellbeing.

Dr Douglas Ross, CEO of St Mary’s Hospital in KZN and Chairperson of CATHCA comments: “The role of the community caregiver has in the last few years become massive – they are now responsible for managing households in their entirety. We believe this role needs to become more focussed with an emphasis on health education and promotion.

“They should be with mothers before and after birth, ensuring these women receive the necessary nutrition, visit a clinic within 20 weeks of their pregnancy and test vital statistics such as haemoglobin levels and blood pressure on a regular basis. Maternal deaths due to obstetric haemorrhage and hypertension account for 28% of all maternal deaths (14% each) in South Africa which can be prevented by proper monitoring and management,” he added.

On a positive note, the roundtable participants were in agreement that as the primary healthcare programme unpacked, caregivers would have the opportunity to focus their roles which in turn would positively impact the country’s maternal health scenario.

However, community education remains crucial:  “We need a back to basics approach; you need a mother to come forward from the start, visit her local clinic and get into the system,” adds Stanley Maphosa, Advocacy and External Engagements advisor at World Vision South Africa. 


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Issue 23


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