Members of the Early Learning Resource Unit during a visiting to three Langa Township families. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Members of the Early Learning Resource Unit during a visiting to three Langa Township families. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Members of the Early Learning Resource Unit during a visiting to three Langa Township families. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Members of the Early Learning Resource Unit during a visiting to three Langa Township families. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Eight months pregnant Siziwe Kasa,32 who is one of the Early Learning Resource Unit beneficiaries PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Eight months pregnant Siziwe Kasa,32 who is one of the Early Learning Resource Unit beneficiaries PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Mother Nizibone Kala,19, and her six week-old baby Onako with an Early Learning Resource Unit staff member. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Mother Nizibone Kala,19, and her six week-old baby Onako with an Early Learning Resource Unit staff member. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Zimkhitha Mvalo, 30, with son Alunamda, 23 months old, in the care of  Andisiwe Tsholoba of the Early Learning Resource Unit, a non-governmental organisation focused on improving the cognitive development of young children. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
Zimkhitha Mvalo, 30, with son Alunamda, 23 months old, in the care of Andisiwe Tsholoba of the Early Learning Resource Unit, a non-governmental organisation focused on improving the cognitive development of young children. PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN - South Africa is committed to reducing under-five mortality rates in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, with a special focus on the early years of a child's development.

And as part of the broad programme to reach young children, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF), along with other stakeholders, visited Langa in Cape Town to deliver services to the three families which were identified for special intervention.

The programme is a joint initiative between the NMCF, the non-governmental organisation the Early Learning Resource Unit (Elru) and corporate partner Nedbank.

According to the latest child mortality research which was published in March, conducted by the South African Medical Journal, child mortality has declined substantially in the past decade. Under-five mortality in 2015 was estimated at 37 to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births, with an estimated infant mortality rate of 27 to 33 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Mario Clausen, Elru programme manager, said the organisation focuses on mothers, caregivers and children from the ages of zero to five years old. 

"So we work with centres, we do playgroups for children who are not able to access early childhood development services," he said. 

"The programme that you are seeing here today is called the family and community motivated programme which targets the first 1,000 days of the child’s life, from conception to two years old.

"So we provide access to the essential package of services which include social services, information on nutrition and link them up to services around social grants, IDs and so on, and we also do early stimulation in the home. Teaching parents and caregivers how to bond with their children, so that’s our focus."

He said the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund helps the organisation, which was established 40 years ago and based in Lansdowne, in the implementation and development of the programme.

The NMCF, founded 23 years ago, uses sites in different villages and provinces to reach out to families and children who are vulnerable and helping to change the way that society treats its children.

“We make sure that we create a safe environment for these children. We create an environment that guarantees their health, that guarantees that they grow up in a family institution and an environment that guarantees that their children can play and grow and be normal,” said Shadi Nyokong, programme manager: Child Survival and Development Programme at the NMCF.

"As a children's advocate, we are guided by the research, experience, observations. The research has guided us to identify these sites where there are high levels of children exposed to these problems. We also work with these different local organisations who really understand the issue affecting these people, we want to work with them."

International research has shown that approximately one-third of under-five deaths occur during the newborn period, while diarrhoea, pneumonia and HIV infection remained the leading causes of death outside of the newborn period. 

Gerry Raftopoulos, marketing manager: arts and sports affinities at Nedbank, said: "From the Nedbank perspective, what we are doing is funding 246 community health workers which amount to more than of R5 million for the next year specifically for these programmes. But it is across seven provinces and with 10 organisations and it’s in line with our #VaxTheNation programme for this year, which was committed by our CEO at the global citizen festival."

African News Agency (ANA)