Monday 24 August 2015

Taking the message to the community

August 7

Madadeni: Breastfeeding Week 2015 was celebrated in the Amajuba district in north-west KwaZulu Natal with a lively community event aimed at raising awareness of the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and of the implementation of the Human Milk Bank at Newcastle Hospital.
 “The broader goal is to reduce child malnutrition and mortality,” explained Ms Sindisiwe Mchunu, nutrition co-ordinator of Amajuba District.
“The rate of breastfeeding after delivery is very high – 90% and above - but after discharge from hospital, most mothers are not practicing exclusive breastfeeding and that is our challenge,” said Ms Mchnu. “The rate of exclusive breastfeeding is very low: only 8%. This has contributed to high rates of malnutrition in our district.
“Last year (2014/2015), the number of admissions for severe acute malnutrition was above 200, compared to 155 in 2013/2014. So every year, there is an increase.
“If we get 200 coming to hospital, how many more are there in the communities? We see children as young as two months with malnutrition. We think that if we get breastfeeding right, we can get that right.”
The event was attended by around 300 men and women of all ages.  This was deliberate, explained Ms Mchunu, as care is often shared by members of the family.
“We had focus group discussions last year which showed that when mothers have to go back to work or to school, that is when exclusive breastfeeding stops. We need to target not just the mother but the community as a whole. This means gogos and mkhulus.”
Ms Lungile Kubheka, an 18-year-old donor mother, gave a moving account of how she is donating her breastmilk to the Human Milk Bank at Newcastle Hospital.
Short dramas enacted by Mixed Media showing the everyday obstacles encountered by nursing mothers had the audience in fits of laughter.  Umbrellas, baby beanies and cooler bags with the pink and white Made by Mom branding were distributed to those who correctly answered questions about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and human milk banking.
In a room at the back of the hall, nurses from the Newcastle Hospital offered a full range of community services including immunization and growth monitoring for children; screening for HIV, diabetes and hypertension as well as family planning.
“When we get people together like this, we use the opportunity to provide every service we possibly can,” explained Ms Mchunu.