“Teen and adolescent pregnancy is a growing problem in South Africa and unfortunately nearly a quarter of these mothers give birth prematurely, and are often also not in a position to care for their babies.”
So says Linda Pretorius, co-ordinator of Netcare’s Neonatal Forum, who was speaking on International Prematurity Day.
“Even in the event of a planned pregnancy and for adult mothers, the premature birth of a baby is just so unexpected that they are often ill prepared physically, emotionally and financially. In addition, many disadvantaged mothers themselves are ill, poverty stricken and malnourished.”
Prematurity is defined as birth before 37 complete weeks of gestation. According to Every Woman Every Child, a global initiative which aims to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world, in South Africa 71 000 babies were born prematurely in 2011 and as many as 12%, or 8 320, of these babies died.
Globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 15 million premature babies are born each year. This means that one in 10 babies is born prematurely.
Pretorius says that women may give birth pre-term for a number of reasons, including as a result of complications. However, she points out that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to giving birth pre-term. A recent study by the South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology indicates that approximately 24.3% of adolescents give birth prematurely, compared to less than 10% of adult mothers.
International Prematurity Day is commemorated on 17 November every year to highlight the challenges facing premature babies. The Netcare Neonatal Forum, an initiative of the neonatal units at 17 Netcare hospitals in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, marked the day with a special corporate social investment (CSI) outreach project called ’Share the Hope’, which is aimed at supporting highly vulnerable premature babies from disadvantaged households.
Netcare, through the Netcare Foundation, undertook the Share the Hope project in conjunction with biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie.
“AbbVie donated gift boxes for the project while Netcare staff members as well as some other donors lovingly painted and decorated the boxes in purple, the colour representing prematurity. They then filled the boxes with clothing and toiletry essentials, nappies and special gifts for premature babies which they donated, while some of the boxes also contained a special note to the mom,” explains Pretorius.
“All in all, over 1 000 gift boxes will be given to mothers of premature babies at a number of state hospitals in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape over the coming months. Skynet Worldwide Express will be delivering the boxes to the hospitals free of charge. “
“A further idea behind the boxes is that the parents will be able to keep them as ‘memory boxes’, in which they can store photos and mementos from their children’s early years,” she adds.
Netcare’s Share the Hope initiative was launched this year, with the group’s hospitals in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape participating. Next year the Forum intends to roll out the project to Netcare hospitals countrywide.
“Many of the staff members have said that they see the project as a way of giving back to society, and the word has spread to such an extent that this year more and more staff members wanted to participate. We kept increasing our number of boxes until we exceeded the magical number of 1 000,” says Pretorius.
“We hope that the goodies and little gifts in their purple boxes will spread hope and help change the lives of these precious little babies,” she concluded.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville, Thomas Hartleb or Devereaux Morkel
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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