Health Minister Joe Phaahla says almost 20 000 children died of diarrhoea, pneumonia in last 10 years

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 25, 2023


Pretoria - Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has revealed that 19 707 children under 5 died due to pneumonia and diarrhoea in public hospitals, and 12 582 from moderate and severe acute malnutrition, in the past 10 years.

In total, more than 178 000 children under 5 died at public hospitals in the country during the same period. Phaahla also revealed that 12 224 children’s deaths between 2013 to 2018 were due to unnatural causes.

The minister made these revelations in reply to parliamentary questions from the DA spokesperson on health, Michele Clarke.

Clarke asked Phaahla for details on the number of children who died in public health facilities in each of the provinces. She also wanted the minister to give a detailed breakdown of the reason for each death and the number of deaths due to unnatural causes.

In his reply, Phaahla gave a detailed provincial breakdown of deaths – and KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had the highest number of deaths.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded 38 711 deaths, while Gauteng had 38 243.

The Eastern Cape had 25 189 deaths, Limpopo 24 744; Mpumalanga 14  226; North West 10 300; the Free State 10 189; the Northern Cape 5 107 and the Western Cape 736.

Phaahla, however, said that the provision of individual causes of children’s deaths to the House (Parliament) contravened section 35 of the Protection of Personal Information Act.

Aggregated data on common causes of death in children were diarrhoea and pneumonia, including the underlying causes, such as severe and moderate acute malnutrition, were collected routinely through the district health information, he said.

Reacting, Clarke said given that a study conducted in neonatal wards in South African district and regional hospitals found that 33% of patients were infected with pneumonia in hospital, it would be logical to assume that at least 3 000 of the 10 216 pneumonia-related deaths recorded were from hospital-associated infections. The horrendous state of many of the health facilities the DA conducts oversights at, certainly bears out the high risk of infection, she said.

“The ANC government’s fever dream of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill will not make a dent in addressing these issues. This is because the ANC sees the myriad problems plaguing the public health sector as an issue of funding, when, in fact, the problem lies with management of funding, management of resources, management of staff, management of projects and processes, and management of consequences.”

Pretoria News