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South Africa, 6 September 2013: Keeping mothers and children alive and healthy: tracking South Africa’s progress

6 September 2013 - For many years, South Africa’s HIV burden was amongst the largest in the world, but the country’s commitment to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV and to improve the health of mothers and babies, changed this around.

Today, nine out of ten pregnant women living with HIV, receive antiretrovirals and between 2009 and 2012, new infections in children under 15 declined by 63%. Leadership and a strong political will have turned the tide on HIV in South Africa.

To continue on this path of progress, high coverage of maternal and newborn care services is essential: including, quality care during labour and delivery, and dedicated post-natal follow-ups for mother and baby.

Amongst other resources, South Africa uses an innovative dashboard featuring key indicators to monitor coverage and progress on these services. For example, if an indicator has a red light next to it, this highlights a service delivery area in need of attention.

“We could have picked a large number of indicators but the more indicators you pick the poorer the quality of the data and the less focused the programme,” said Dr Yogan Pillay,  Deputy Director General of Strategic Health Programmes (HIV/Aids, TB and MCWH) at South Africa’s National Department of Health. “We wanted to be very focussed and to have a small number of indicators that everyone is committed to collating and interpreting and using the data to improve the programme. And therein lies the innovation.”

Research shows that the quality and coverage of services have vastly improved.  According to recent estimates by the Medical Research Council, the current MTCT rate is as low as 2.7 percent. This has been accompanied by improved maternal and child health outcomes.

These results also testify to strong partnerships. UNICEF works closely with the Health Department to ensure that implementation happens on all levels – especially on ground level.

South Africa has committed to continuing on its path of progress in eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV and keeping mothers and children alive and healthy. With the 2015 deadline drawing closer, it is even more imperative to identify gaps in the programme and improve quality of service at all levels: district, provincial and national.

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