How Nedbank Is Working to Change the Lives of Children Across South Africa
A State of the SA Child report by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund found that 14% of South African children go to bed hungry every night, and more than 25% of children under the age of 3 experience stunted growth due to a lack of nutrients and vitamins.
According to UNICEF, children who suffer from malnutrition develop lifelong developmental challenges that may be irreversible. This impacts access to education and increases the likelihood of never breaking the cycle of poverty when they become adults.
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are therefore vital, as they can determine the quality of a child’s life beyond childhood.
The Nedbank Children's Affinity programme has been working with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund since 2005 to lift South African children out of poverty. This is achieved by promoting access to health care and initiatives that help families and communities improve their economic status.
One of the initiatives, the Child Development and Survival programme, reduces child mortality by supporting pregnant women, providing access to quality health care to children, and helping families improve their livelihoods.
The first 1,000 days of life
Malnutrition, lack of immunisation, and access to medical care have turned child mortality into a critical health issue with 100 out of 1,000 babies not surviving to their second birthday. Children under the age of 5 are also susceptible to respiratory and intestinal infections, with 39% of all under 5 deaths linked to either of these infections.
The Child Development and Survival programme works with several government and community organisations to address these health challenges, by prioritising the first 1,000 days of life to detect and manage stunting and malnutrition.
Families are educated on the services available for the first two years of a child’s life, such as free immunisation, and about importance of access to quality nutrition and health services. The initiative offers on-the-ground support through mom clubs that bring together women in the communities.
The mom clubs meet twice a month to identify and ensure that pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and new moms have psychosocial support. There are 29 clubs with 1,221 members. Each member receives eggs — which contain essential proteins — at every meeting and members are encouraged to establish a one square meter vegetable garden at their homes.
Making health care easy to access
The national Department of Health offers extensive immunisation and other health services for free, yet only 82% of children are able to access this life-saving medical care. This is a result of challenges that include lack of access to health care services and lack of capacity.
The programme has partnered with local organisations in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, and Free State provinces to train and equip community health care workers.
The programme also has clinic committees that set up data-capturing systems to assist with patient data management. As a result of this support, 158 community health workers were trained on family-based early childhood development and 339 new moms counselled on exclusive breastfeeding, which the World Health Organization has identified as one of the ways in which mothers’ can boost their infants’ growth.
The programme has supported about 7,000 children since its inception, with 87% of the children dewormed and given Vitamin A shots, 74% fully immunised at 18 months, and 60% infants under the age of 1 immunised.
With resources like the Child Development and Survival programme, families and communities can thrive and get a step closer to meeting health targets set by the Global Goals.