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The City is intensifying its 1 000 Days Campaign amid concern from UNICEF that 69 million children under the age of five are likely to die in the next 14 years from preventable diseases. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Health Directorate, in conjunction with the Western Cape Government Health Department, has embarked on a 1 000 Days Campaign focusing on the health and well-being of children from the time of conception until the age of two years.

New knowledge in the field of neuroscience shows that what happens during the first 1 000 days of the life of a child largely determines the future of that child. A safe environment in which to grow and develop, good nutrition, good parenting and early stimulation are critical during this phase of rapid growth, when the wiring of the brain takes place, establishing connections that will enable them to develop to their full potential.‘We will not succeed in reducing child inequities in Cape Town if we don’t foster more comprehensive support to women throughout their pregnancies, as well as ensuring opportunities for children to grown in a safe and responsive environment,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.

City Health is aware that issues like violence and abuse, gangsterism, dependence on substances, etc. have their roots in difficulties experienced in the first 1 000 days of life. Those problems can largely be avoided if mothers and their babies have problems identified and receive adequate support during this critical period. The campaign to create awareness of this had its beginnings in May this year, with a number of workshops targeting health staff. It will continue into the new financial year until all have been exposed to the training.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) indicates in its latest State of the World’s Children Report that 69 million children under the age of five will die in the next 14 years if appropriate steps are not taken to address inequities.

‘The UNICEF report is startling. The world has a mountain to climb to address child mortality. We’ve made some gains in South Africa, and specifically in the City of Cape Town, but we cannot rest on our laurels because we still have a lot of work to do, which is why this 1 000 Days Campaign is so important,’ said Councillor Mamkeli.

Last year, world leaders committed to a number of sustainable development goals, including reducing infant mortality to 12 deaths per 1 000 live births and under-five mortality to 25 deaths per 1 000 live births in every country by 2030.

In the Cape metropole, infant mortality rates have been dropping in the last decade, from 25 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2003 to 15 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2013. Most notably, analysis of mortality in the different areas demonstrates that inequities have been reducing.

Some of the interventions that have resulted in the turnaround include:
· encouraging mothers-to-be to register for basic antenatal care (BANC) before they are 20 weeks pregnant

· a breastfeeding restoration plan advocating exclusive breastfeeding to ensure healthier babies

· implementation of a Nutrition Therapeutic Programme to address malnutrition

· vaccination drives to protect children against preventable diseases

· a vigorous annual diarrhoea awareness campaign

· collaborating with community-based organisations to help identify children in need of clinical services

· education and awareness programmes around personal hygiene and community health matters

· reproductive health advice and access to family planning methods to ensure that pregnancies are planned and spaced by two years

The 1 000 Days Campaign places special emphasis on education and awareness about this critical period in a child’s development. It also hopes to elicit compassion for pregnant women, provide support to avoid depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy, and ensure overall improved parenting and new initiatives to improve early child stimulation. These are multi-sectoral initiatives that require participation from an extended number of role players.

‘We have the clinics, the expertise and the materials to deal with child health and meet the sustainable development goals of further reducing our child mortality rates. Where we’re still lacking is the buy-in from everyone who can help make a difference in the lives of children. We have started by rallying staff in our clinics and we will be spreading the message to the communities as we go along. There is no reason why children should die from preventable diseases, but education is key for us as service providers, as well as the children’s caregivers and the community at large,’ added Councillor Mamkeli.

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