Remarks by KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane, on the occasion of welcoming Christmas babies at Gen. Justice Gizenga Mpanza Hospital

25 December 2022

Introduction

Thank you for joining us this morning, as we officially welcome our Christmas babies to the world.

The arrival of these new bundles of joy is always an exciting time in general, as it signals the beginning of new life, and the endless possibilities that it offers.

But these babies will always carry the distinction of sharing their birthday with Jesus Christ, which makes them special, because this is, indeed, a special time of goodwill and happiness.

As the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, we are therefore honoured and priviledged to be here to welcome these babies, and we want to say to all the mothers, Congratulations!!!

We also want to express our appreciation to all our staff across all levels, for working through the December holiday period.

Christmas Babies born so far

  • We are pleased to announce that, from the stroke of midnight until now, KZN has welcomed a total of 47 Christmas Day babies from healthcare facilities across the Province. This number is made up of 24 boys and 23 girls. But we will providing an update as the day progresses.
  • The Provinceís first Christmas baby, a bouncing baby girl, was born at Durbanís King Dinuzulu Hospital, to a 36 year-old mother. She arrived on the stroke of midnight, weighing in at 2,9kg.
  • We wish all the mothers nothing but the best as they begin this new journey with their little ones.
  • We are nevertheless concerned that the youngest among these mothers is a 15 year-old, who gave birth at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital. There have also been two 17 year-olds, both of whom gave birth at Mosvold Hospital, under Umkhanyakude District.
  • We also have three 18 year-old mothers, who delivered at St Apolinaris, Ladysmith, and Estcourt hospitals.
  • When you look at these cases, what becomes glaring is that these girls had sex when they were about a year younger than they are, which means girls aged 14, 16, and 17 years old were engaging in sexual intercourse.
  • We want to emphasise that this is unacceptable, because conceiving at such a young age can be very, very dangerous for both mother and child. A mother who is too young is simply not ready for the demands of raising a child. Sheís not ready psychologically or in terms of the body itself, to bear a child.
  • When you fall pregnant at a young age, youíre actually at an increased risk of suffering health complications, and possibly losing your life and that of the baby.

Concern over stats involving young girls; calling out older men who lust after young girls

  • But we also wish to express our deep concern over the vulnerability of young girls to HIV/AIDS infection, as well as other Sexually Transmitted Infections.
  • Our statistics in this regard pain a grim picture, which means we all need to buckle up as society, and save our girls.
  • According to our official records, between January and October this year:
    • Out of 727 466 women between the ages of 15 to 24 who got tested for HIV in KwaZulu-Natal, 15 665 tested positive. Although this amounts to a positivity rate of 2%, more than 15 000 young women testing positive for HIV is nevertheless extremely worrying;
    • At least 15 girls aged between 10 and 14 were found to have STIs. What does a 10 year-old do when she has an STI? Ngeke bakwethu. Something needs to change;
    • A further 322 girls aged between 15 and 19 also tested positive for STIs.
    • An additional 702 women between the ages of 20 and 24 were found to have STIs.
    • Within the same period of January to October 2022, a total of 6 417 pregnant women tested positive for syphilis. Now, syphilis is a potentially life-threatening disease that can cause premature delivery; severe damage to the heart, brain or other organs.
  • We also want to be clear that older men who impregnate these young girls and infect them with STIs must be arrested and made to face the full might of the law, because what they are doing is statutory rape. It also amounts to Gender-Based Violence.
  • So, we reiterate that the law must take its course.

Parents must seek openly to their children about sexual reproductive health:

  • We also want to take this opportunity and encourage parents or guardians to get more involved in initiating and deepening the conversation with their children about sex in general, as well as the dangers and consequences of unprotected sex.
  • If you are a parent or guardian, it is important to find ways to break the barriers of communication between you and your child. This helps to avert challenges such as sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV; unplanned pregnancy; and unwanted babies.
  • It's never an easy conversation, but it's one that absolutely needs to happen, because if you don't talk to your children about sex, it doesn't mean they wonít be curious and want to experiment.
  • It does not mean they're not getting approached and prepositioned by boys and these older men-especially on social media.
  • So, by not talking to your child about sex, you're actually leaving them at risk of being influenced by their peers with the wrong information."

Building a "Khebhen" (cabin/back room) for a boy shoudl not give them licence to change girisl everyday, and do as they please

  • We also wish to appeal to parents, especially in our townships and rural areas, not to abdicate their responsibility when it comes to raising boy children.
  • Too often, boys get given too much leeway to behave as they please, and then people get surprised when they suffer the consequences of having too much freedom. Itís not enough to build "ikhebhen" for your boy child, without talking to them about how to behave responsibly.
  • If you don't encourage your child to abstain or protect himself, you will soon become a grandparent, and your child might also acquire a sexually-transmitted infection.

Give your children condoms:

  • Similarly, there is nothing wrong with giving your children condoms - even girls - and encouraging them to use them if they can't to abstain, and are sexually active.
  • I know this, because I've given my own daughter condoms. It starts with us as parents.
  • You can also encourage your daughter to use contraceptives, which are available free of charge at our facilities. We also have various other family planning methods that we have on offer.
  • Family planning is extremely important in that it prevents unplanned pregnancy, and unwanted babies. It ensures that girls do not drop out of school, and compromise their future prospects.
  • And, contraception should not only be the responsibility of women, but also their partners.
  • We call on men really need to step forward and take charge of family planning. Just as conception is a team effort between a man and a woman, so should be contraception as well.
  • Men who don't want to become fathers must use a condom at all times, and those who feel they have fathered enough children also have the option to undergo a vasectomy.
  • "We're also encouraging parents or guardians to get more involved in initiating and deepening the conversation with their children about sex in general, sexuality, and the dangers of sexually transmitted infections. Itís never an easy conversation, but itís one that absolutely needs to happen."

Impace of our new HIV/AIDS awareness billboards"

  • As part of the Province's new HIV/Aids awareness strategy, we recently unveiled a new and exciting street billboards HIV and AIDS messaging campaign.
  • We felt that our previous HIV and AIDS messaging strategy had become stale and needed to be refreshed. This new campaign mainly targets young people, and features messages that are written in fresh, everyday language that young people speak and understand.
  • The new billboards carry messages such as:
    • I-Skoon Siyabhayizisa - Condomise;
    • Sihamba Ngolayini: Sidla Ama-ARV Waya-Waya, Sihlale Si-Sharp; and
    • Cupha Isisoka Bhinca Lami, Ukhuphuke NgoShuni we-Condom
    • We are quite pleased at the positive feedback that we are receiving from people, and it shows that they are taking note, and that the message that we are trying to get through to them is slowly but surely sinking in. Of course, there is still a lot more work to be done to win the war against HIV and AIDS.

Breastfeeding

  • As guided by the World Health Organisation, we continue to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, because it has been found that the healthiest babies are the ones who are exclusively breastfed.
  • If you give your child breast milk, youíre giving them food and also medicine to protect them against early childhood illnesses.
  • On the other hand, adding formula, water, tea, other drinks, cereals and other foods in the first 6 months increases the baby's risk of getting diarrhoea, pneumonia, malnutrition, allergies, and other ailments.
  • Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Childhood immunisation:

  • We would also like to take this opportunity and urge mothers to adhere to the childhood vaccination schedule for their babies. Vaccination is critical as it protects children from certain infectious diseases, and also prevents the spread of diseases within our communities.
  • In the past, diseases such as smallpox and polio posed a serious threat to the lives of children. Getting infected with such diseases meant death or paralysis.
  • But today, thanks to the development of vaccines, smallpox has been totally eradicated and South Africa is almost free of other infections such as polio and measles.
  • The vaccination schedule is from birth and again at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, 6 years, 9 years, and 12 years. Our local clinics and community health centres provide free vaccinations for children.

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This page last edited on 03 January, 2023

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