Entries in South Africa (2)


South Africa Ending Free Infant Formula, Encouraging Breastfeeding

Zoonar/Thinkstock(DURBAN, South Africa) -- South Africa’s high child mortality rates and low exclusive breastfeeding rates have prompted the nation to begin phasing out free infant formula for HIV-positive mothers.

At eight percent, South Africa has the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rates in the world. Infant formula does not contain the food and nutrients needed to protect babies from infection, says the South African Health Department which ended the free formula program on Sunday.

The department is encouraging mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life and HIV-positive mothers will receive antiretroviral drugs to reduce the chance of transmission from mother to child, reports UNICEF.

“We just needed to move ahead rather quickly and rapidly because of the issue of saving children’s lives,” said Leonore Spies from the Department of Health.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maternal Mortality Rate Quadruples in South Africa

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(JOHANNESBURG) -- South Africa may be the only country in the world with a national public holiday celebrating the achievements of women. "Women's Day" is a celebration of the protest 55 years ago when 20,000 women took to the streets to fight oppressive apartheid laws.

But activists say women in South Africa are still fighting for some basic human rights, none more so than the right to safely give birth.

A new Human Rights Watch Report says in Sub-Saharan Africa's most developed country, many expectant mothers are living in peril due to inadequate health care.

The scathing report, "Stop Making Excuses: Accountability for Maternal Health Care in South Africa," chronicles scores of stories of pregnant women who were either mistreated, or in some cases not treated at all at government hospitals, resulting in needless health complications or death for themselves or their babies. "We hoped that the awareness surrounding women in South Africa around Women's Day would raise the profile of issues related to maternal death and also injury related to pregnancy," Liesl Gerntholtz, the director for the women's rights program for Human Rights Watch, told ABC News.

Unlike other Sub-Saharan African countries, South Africa enjoys some level of professional healthcare and health workers. The country spends $748 a year per citizen on health care, more than any other country on the sub-continent -- and includes free maternity care. An estimated 87 percent of women have babies in a hospital or clinic.

But nurses, who are the first line of defense in care at government hospitals, complain about being overworked, and under-resourced. That frustration, according to the report, is transferring to the treatment of patients. Discrimination against immigrants and HIV positive women is a particular problem.

South Africa's maternal mortality rate has quadrupled over the last few years, jumping to more than 4,500 maternal deaths per year.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges that the increase could be the result of better record-keeping and South Africa's continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

But the report points to factors hospitals can control, such as corruption and accountability. Three hospitals are currently under investigation for high infant mortality rates. One hospital was found to not be using gloves, disinfectants or soap, and 29 babies died last January from an apparent superbug.

South Africa's Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters that the government realizes nurses and hospital staff are under tremendous pressure, and are often working in difficult circumstances, but that the health system has to do better.

Gerntholtz says the South African government has been very receptive to the report and is committed to instituting changes at a national level, but she hopes that commitment will trickle down to the local health care facilities, where these expectant mothers in peril often end up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio