ABOUT 360 mothers in SA die from pregnancy-related causes while millions more suffer complications. And at least 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday – despite nearly all of these deaths resulting from preventable or treatable causes.

These alarming figures were revealed on Wednesday during a seminar on the state of maternal and child health care in SA.

The two-day seminar in Joburg is an initiative between Discovery Health, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

It seeks to find solutions on how organisations can improve the health of all children and mothers in the country.

“South Africa is losing many mothers, babies and young children unnecessarily and child mortality has increased in the last 10 years,” said Ruth Lewin, head of corporate at Discovery.

The seminar noted that factors accounting for the high child mortality rate included poor nutrition, the HIV/Aids pandemic and infections before birth. More worrying is the fact that basic health care is not always accessible and primary health-care facilities are not always up to standard.

“It is imperative for SA to improve access to high-quality health care that will improve health access among mothers and children. Antenatal care such as vitamin supplementation and infection screening, skilled care during birth in the community and at facilities plus basic (post-birth) and newborn care during the first few weeks of life can benefit mothers and babies, and can save lives.” – STAFF REPORTER