Told by Phumla Dyantyi, a Project Officer for child survival, development and thriving programme
This week, the 10th to 16th February 2020, marks another important event in our health calendar – Pregnancy Awareness Week. Research conversations are emphasising the fact that this is the time when the child’s health is most vulnerable, care and support should be between pregnancy to two years. This is because the first one 1000 days of life of a child is the unique special time that can have a significant influence on how the baby develops, not just now but for his or her whole life.
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund) through its Child Survival, Development and Thriving (CSDT) Programme is one of the players in first 1000 days of life of a child space. The Fund’s approach broadly supports initiatives that improve good health outcomes, improve malnutrition, strengthen families, and building community initiatives that are intended to increase quality health services for children.
For pregnancy work, our footprint is in eight provinces, the Fund has partners with locally based organisations. The link is through community health care workers (CHW) / family and community motivator (FCM) who work closely with pregnant women, their families and the community as a whole.
Community health care workers / family and community motivator promote healthy pregnancy through health education and family support. They stress why it is important to maintain a healthy pregnancy and benefits thereof. CHW also promote a healthy home environment, encouraging the whole family to support the pregnancy. This has proven to contribute to the psychological wellbeing of the mother-to-be. They also encourage pregnant women to attend antenatal care, to practice good nutrition and hygiene. The work that these CHW/ FCM undertake in promoting a healthy pregnancy is conducted through various platforms such as home visits, awareness at clinics, community outreach and parental workshops.
Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) is one of the partners in the Western Cape Province. The organisation uses the family and community motivator (FCM) approach to safeguard maternal and child health. Their FCMs dedicate time to conduct home visits in order to support and work with the pregnant women in the comfort of their homes. Through their work with the pregnant women, focus is on stimulating activities. They encourage the mother to start talking to the child during pregnancy as a way of connecting and developing a bond between her and the baby even before birth. This contributes positively in the wellbeing of both the mother and the child. FCMs also ensure that the mother is informed about adherence and compliance to immunisation, hygiene practices that maintain and prevent the spread of diseases, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as well as optimal nutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life. The FCMs are currently supporting 514 pregnant women and they have ensured that they adhere to their antenatal care.
The Fund also works with Khayelitsha Community Health Centre, a 24-hour service health care facility, based in the Western Cape Province. The health facility promotes the first 1000 days of a child and encourages parents to start caring for their children before birth. They ensure that pregnant women are up to date with their antenatal care appointments. They conduct roadshows to bring awareness to the community of Khayelitsha on the first 1000 days of a child’s life. They also provide pregnancy education that promote healthy pregnancy. They encourage male participation in starting to care for a child before birth. Through their work, 17887 women have adhered to their antenatal care.
Other responses to healthy pregnancy that the Fund is currently involved in, include:
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