More than 20 000 children gain access to better health services in Limpopo

Children from the Motesti community enjoying the festivities and the Child Health Awareness Day hosted on 11 October

According to the 2016/17 District Health Barometer, the percentage of children who are admitted to hospital for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and do not survive is as follows; Limpopo: 8.3%, Capricorn District: 9.2%, Free State: 9.6%, Thabo Mofutsanyane: 11.0%. These areas are all above the national South African average of 8%, there are still districts where a great amount of work still needs to be done and support given to address the infant fatalities due to malnutrition.

Emma Knox, Country Manager for GSK Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines in South Africa (Right) and Gugulethu Ndebele, CEO at Save the Children South Africa (Left)

Thousands of children, caregivers, healthcare workers and educators have benefitted from the partnership between GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and Save the Children South Africa (SCSA), which aims to contribute towards universal health coverage for children under the age of five in Limpopo and the Free State. Save the Children is a global non-governmental organisation that promotes children’s rights, provides relief, and helps support children in more than 120 countries.

The three-year R19 million project, funded by GSK, launched in June 2016 and is helping communities by building the capacity of over 600 healthcare workers and 00 early childhood development practitioners. It is improving the quality of and access to essential health services for 22,500 children under five years old and 11,250 parents and primary caregivers in the two provinces.

The first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial, and determine health and wellbeing in adulthood, hence health projects like these are so critical. Severe acute malnutrition (one of the worst forms of poor nutrition) is still a reality in South Africa.

While this is quite a realist view of the current status, the country has made great strides in decreasing its SAM fatality rate.

“GSK is proud to be able to support SCSA and the lifesaving initiatives that we’ve been able to drive together. We can already see the benefits for the people of Limpopo and the Free State and look forward to continued collaboration that will help improve the quality of children’s lives.” says Vasu Chetty, Medical Affairs Director, GSK Consumer Healthcare, South Africa.

Save the Children have partnered with the Department of Health (DOH) to launch Child Health Awareness Days (CHADs) across Limpopo and the Free State. They hold eight CHADs a year, educating caregivers on pregnancy care, infant and young child feeding, and early detection of malnutrition. Children attending will also receive necessary health services such as deworming and Vitamin A doses, delivered in conjunction with the DoH. The CHADs are just one activity of a wide-ranging collaboration between GSK and SCSA, under the umbrella project Sireletsa Bana (translated as “Protect the children”).

The community leaders are pleased that the project is improving healthcare infrastructure as well as education and awareness for frontline staff, which is a critical step in reaching a large portion of the community, and changing behaviour.

“SCSA is deeply invested in this project and are aligned with our valued global partner, GSK,

because through their support we were able to improve the lives of tens of thousands,” says Gugu Ndebele, CEO of Save the Children. “With what we’ve created through collaboration so far, we can see that the positive impact of this project is making an immediate impact on society and is sustainable, and we look forward to another year of educating, empowering and strengthening our communities.” There has also been sustained and continued education of breastfeeding support groups, in order to offer help to new mothers, and extend the length of their breastfeeding.

The Sireletsa Bana project is just one of GSK’s initiatives, and forms part of a global partnership with Save the Children to help improve the lives of the world’s poorest children.

The Global partnership between GSK and Save the Children was formed in 2013 and has been globally noted for its excellence in social impact work. The partnership has combined GSK’s scientific and manufacturing expertise with Save the Children’s on-the-ground experience to find new ways to help bring down the number of children dying from preventable and treatable diseases.

The two organisation’s shared ambition is clear: no child under five should die from preventable causes. Together, through this partnership we have reached over 2,800,000 children under five in 45 countries, and met head on some of the main causes of preventable child deaths – including treating over 187,800 children for malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhoea.  GSK employees have raised a further £3.3 million since the start of the partnership in 2013.