The Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has once more demonstrated the country's commitment in improving health in South Africa. On 4 May 2012, he launched South Africa's new campaign, ‘Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA)' at Osindisweni Hospital, Verulam in KwaZulu Natal. This campaign aims to reduce number of women who die as a result of childbearing, during the pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery or termination of pregnancy. The theme of the launch was ‘South Africa Cares, No Woman Should Die Whilst Giving Life'.
As the Minister said at the launch, South Africa experiences unacceptably high numbers of maternal deaths. According to November 2011 National Department of Health's Report of the Health Data Advisory and Coordination Committee, Maternal Mortality Ratio is 310/100 000, whilst 14 out of 1000 new born babies die within one month of life.
The minister was joined by the MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal Dr SM Dhlomo, Members of Parliament, Africa Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Advocate Bience Gawanas, Ms Graca Machel, musical icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka, United Nations represented by Dr. Akinyele Dairo, from United Nations Population Fund, amongst other dignitaries. More than 500 delegates attended including SADC member states.
Community mobilization campaigns were raised as important to educate women and men on importance of encouraging women to present early for antenatal care. Communities should be the bearers of information to prevent unintended pregnancies, especially among HIV positive women and teenagers, and to reduce HIV stigma.
Dignitaries joined Minister Motsoaledi to see services offered at Osindisweni Hospital which are critical in reducing maternal DEATHS. They visited maternity waiting homes which are used by women due to deliver who stay in areas without access to reliable transport, some staying in areas without appropriate road infrastructure, where cars/ambulances are unable to reach their homes, especially those defined as ‘high risk'. Babies born before time run the risk of dying from exposure to cold atmosphere. The dignitaries also saw a natural way of warming up small babies, called Kngaroo mother care, which entails placing the baby on mother's chest to keep it warm.
An obstetric ambulance which is only for pregnant women was also on site to respond to emergency calls.
Dr. Akinyele Dairo, from UNFPA, congratulated Minister Motsoaledi on taking very bold steps in addressing maternal mortality and saving lives of women and babies.
Health care workers at Osindisweni Hospital raised the challenge of women coming late to start pregnancy assessment after falling pregnant, and also coming to hospital late after labour starts. They also mentioned challenge of deaths of women and babies related to AIDS complications. However, they were also confident that many of the deaths will be prevented by following treatment protocols of providing AIDS drugs during pregnancy.
The launch was followed by a conference on 5 May at Elangeni Hotel, where officials discussed how South Africa will move forward in addressing these challenges and reducing deaths of women and babies.
National Programme Officer: Sexual Reproductive Health
United Nations Population Fund: UNFPA
Tel: 012 354 8412