The Department of Health’s Annual Report and Annual Performance Plan for the period 2016/17 – 2018/19 notes significant improvements and ongoing challenges to the survival of children in South Africa. It notes that the under-five mortality rate has dropped from 56 down to 39 deaths per 1000 live births by 2014. The reduction is attributable in part to measures aimed at addressing the leading causes of child death, notably the roll out of immunizations that have prevented respiratory diseases and diarrhea brought about by the Rotavirus. In addition, improvements have been brought about by the implementation of the re-engineered PHC model, especially the 6-day post-natal visits to mothers in their homes by the ward-based outreach teams.
Looking forward, the DOH commits to work through its Maternal and Child Health Programme to both minimize maternal and child mortality and morbidity and to optimize the good health of children. However, when it comes to the latter, the Annual Performance Plan is thin on detail and targets.
The ECD policy allocates a significant child development role to the DOH, including the provision of early childhood education services for children under the age of two years. In effect, the policy calls for the adoption of a strong and target-driven health promotive approach. This is an increasingly important role that will have to be picked up more robustly by the DOH in its next planning cycle, particularly to equalize the opportunities for the many more children who will now survive because of the success of the strong historical child-survival focus, but with developmental challenges and disabilities.
Article by Patricia Martin, advocacyaid.com