Three major health care organisations have partnered to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in South Africa, it was announced on Thursday.
Netcare Stork’s Nest, the SA Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) and SA National Blood Service (SANBS) launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the role of blood and breastmilk in saving the lives of mothers and babies. The campaign coincides with the beginning of Women’s Month.
They said a series of open days would be held in Netcare’s 37
maternity hospitals, where educational talks about breastfeeding, breastmilk donation and blood donation would be conducted.
Netcare Stork’s Nest national operations manager Sharlene Swart said department of health reports showed more maternal deaths in SA between 2008 and 2010 than at any previous time.
Obstetric haemorrhage (profuse bleeding after delivery) remained the most common avoidable cause and one of the top five underlying causes of maternal death in the country.
SANBS brand manager Vanessa Raju said the biggest percentage of blood stock (27 percent) went to women experiencing obstetric complications.
“Many people think of donated blood as being used mostly for accident victims or those undergoing surgery, forgetting that women who suffer complications during labour require blood too,” she said.
She said blood donation was a valuable way of giving back to the community.
“By donating blood you may be saving the life of a mother and possibly even the life of her baby as well.
“We therefore urge South Africans to visit their nearest blood donation site regularly – a minimum of four times a year,” Raju said.
Breastfeeding was considered a safer feeding option, particularly in underprivileged communities where access to clean water and a hygienic environment was limited.
A breastfed infant was far less likely to contract illnesses such as diarrhoea from contaminated water and bottles used for formula.
SABR managing director Stasha Jordan said breastmilk donation was increasingly being accepted and practised by mothers as a community initiative.
About 1000 babies a year were fed from the milk donated by a growing donor base of roughly 350 breastmilk donors.
“While this concept is fairly new, it is taking hold quite quickly and we are experiencing a highly positive response from mothers in South Africa,” said Jordan.
According to the department of health, eight to 12 human breastmilk banks will be built before the end of the year. – Sapa
Campaign to fight maternal deaths