Pretoria – South Africa has about 1.3 million maternal orphans, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.
Delivering his Budget Vote in Parliament, where he focused on maternal and child mortality, Motsoaledi said most mothers lost their lives while giving birth and with a high number being HIV positive.
“Remember that maternal mortality is not just death of a woman; it is death of a woman, because she dare fell pregnant! She becomes vulnerable to death because she is trying to bring new life to earth,” Motsoaledi told the National Assembly.
He highlighted the negative societal consequences of maternal deaths.
“This type of situation cannot be allowed to go on in our country. It has much more negative societal consequences beyond health care i.e. crime; poor educational outcomes; teenage pregnancies and … total social disorientation of young husbands. It is a well known fact that young husbands lose direction in life if they lose their partners so early in life.”
According to Motsoaledi, government has become more proactive on maternal and child health, especially with regards to the issue of HIV.
The country’s new universal HIV approach states that all pregnant women living with HIV must be treated with antiretrovirals when their CD4 count drops below 350.
Prevention of mother to child transmission now starts at 14 weeks gestation instead of 28 weeks.
The department is also running serious campaigns in immunisations.
On other preventative measures, Motsoaledi said his department will host a breast feeding summit in August to look at the types of feeding in a country with a substantial HIV/Aids prevalence.
The minister said breast feeding was a time honoured strategy in child survival, which medical science has proven beyond any doubt.
However, in South Africa, in the advent of a heighten HIV and Aids epidemic, the issue of breastfeeding has been markedly undermined.
“In fact, the pattern in this area is fatal to a number of children. Studies revealed by the HSRC last year have shown that 24 percent of mothers are using infant formulas, only 25 percent are on exclusive breast feeding and a whopping 51 percent are on mixed feeding, which is the most dangerous type of feeding in a country with such a high HIV and Aids prevalence,” Motsoaledi said.
Motsoaledi’s budget also focused on the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, which he attributed to unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy consumption of alcohol.
He emphasised risk factors like smoking and alcohol abuse must be eliminated before non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure can be tackled effectively.
He said powerful tobacco and alcohol companies can forget about government changing its mind on enforcing a total ban advertising for these substances.
“I can stake my life on it, we are going to fight with our bare knuckles to achieve this, particularly a ban on advertising of tobacco and alcohol. It is a point of no return and the sooner the tobacco and alcohol industry understand this, the better,” he said. – BuaNews