Project to aid antenatal, new-born care


12 September 2012

The Window of Opportunity project, which was launched in Johannesburg on Tuesday, will provide improved health and development services to expectant mothers and new-borns in South Africa and Mozambique.

It is envisaged that the R200-million project will support 750 000 expectant mothers.

It is a five-year initiative led by global non-profit organisation PATH in partnership with South Africa’s Departments of Health, Social Development and Women, Children and People with Disabilities, and is supported by multinational mining company BHP Billiton.

The project will focus on improving antenatal and new-born care, infant nutrition, child development practices and the quality of health services planning provision.


Fostering community engagement


It will also help foster community engagement and accountability for improved mother and child services in four South African provinces – Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape – as well as the Maputo province in Mozambique.

BHP Billiton South Africa chairperson Xolani Mkhwanazi said the project would make a real difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.

“One of our core values at BHP Billiton is sustainability, putting health and safety first, being environmentally responsible and supporting our communities,” Mkhwanazi said at Tuesday’s launch.

Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana said social investment was a critical element of creating a sustainable economy and progressive social development.

“There is no doubt in my mind that our struggle to change the lives of poor children for the better will be half won if more companies and organisations emulate this example.

“As government, we regard private companies as very important potential partners, who are critical in delivering sustained development to the people of this country,” Xingwana said.

She said the public-private partnership would have far -eaching positive outcomes through the consistent promotion of these basic services.


Early childhood development top priority


Xingwana stressed that early childhood development (ECD) was high on the list of priorities of the South African government.

“The National Plan of Action for Children in South Africa, which we are currently reviewing, provides a comprehensive and detailed account of services that are critical to the development of children.”

Chief Director of Children in the Social Development Department, Margot Davids, said the initiative came just at the right time in the history of ECD in South Africa.

“ECD is seen as a primary programme for the care and protection in development of children. The early years have been recognised as the ideal phase for passing on values that are important for the building of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society,” Davids said.

“If there is an early and appropriate treatment and care, this can reverse the effect of deprivation and support the development of children in their potential.”

Deputy Director General in the Health Department Yogan Pillay said the first years of a child’s life were critical for mobility and mortality, which is why they focused heavily on neonatal, infant and child health.

“If we don’t do enough to support children in the first thousand days, any development glide that is the consequence of a lack of development in [that period] is not recoverable,” Pillay said.

He also said the project could be used as a platform for government, civil society and the private sector to effectively partner to take care of families and ensure that no child was left behind.