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DURBAN - The number of pregnant KwaZulu-Natal women who booked for antenatal clinics during the first five months has risen from 40 to 72% in just three years, thanks to the efforts of community care givers (CCGs), the KwaZulu-Natal health department said on Sunday.

"This means that healthcare professionals are now able to detect more underlying ailments such as HIV, hypertension, and others, which may pose a threat to the pregnant woman and her unborn baby, much earlier," the department said in a statement. 

As part of their health education and promotion work, the department’s 10 200 CCGs visit homes throughout the province, and, among other tasks, screen women and girls aged 15 and upwards for pregnancy. Those who test positive for pregnancy are urged to visit a health facility where they are then booked for antenatal clinics. This pregnancy screening programme was introduced in 2015.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 100th Queen Nandi Memorial Hospital (previously known as Lower Umfolozi War Memorial) on Friday, KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said, “It is encouraging to notice that we’re already seeing the results of mothers who are pregnant and come to our clinics early, before 20 weeks.

"Currently up to 72% are attending our antenatal clinics for the first time. When we started with this campaign only 40% of pregnant women were coming forward during this period.

"This is an amazing story because it gives us a very positive outcome. Most of those women, if they’re HIV positive they’ll be started on treatment much earlier. If those mothers have any other illness and a need for any treatment we’re able to intervene much earlier. And we guarantee them a safe and good life. That is why transmission of HIV from the mother to the baby has been so significantly reduced,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal had managed to reduce the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 20 percent in 2008 to the current 1.2%.

Founded in 2012 and situated at Empangeni, Queen Nandi Regional Hospital was dedicated exclusively to the care of obstetrical, gynaecological, and neonatal patients. 

The 369-bed hospital averaged about 8000 deliveries, and performed about 2000 gynaecological surgery procedures per year, the department said.

However, Dhlomo expressed concern that some children still suffered from severe acute malnutrition and pledged that government would work hard to reduce its incidence.

“That is something that we should have wiped away a long time ago through operation sukuma sakhe. We’ll have to strengthen those programmes, because we’ve already identified which part of the province these children come from, which means we’ll have to go to those areas that were reported,” he said.

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African News Agency (ANA)