Launched in October 2014, the Pregnancy with Dignity Campaign is designed to support the Campaign of Accelerated Reduction in Maternal and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) by advocating for policy interventions and actions to ensure the safety of pregnant women and their babies through pregnancy and childbirth in South Africa. An initiative by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication in collaboration with partners, the Pregnancy with Dignity Campaign is using the Soul City television series, clinic outreach and media advocacy to raise awareness around the fact that a safe and dignified pregnancy is a human rights issue.
South Africa has very high rates of maternal mortality, and lags behind targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in relation to maternal health and child mortality. According to Soul City, the intervention "is motivated by the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Section 10 of the South African Constitution. The concept of human dignity has become a central organizing principal in the idea of universal human rights. Dignity in terms of the campaign refers to self-worth, personal standards and how pregnant woman perceive themselves and are perceived by others."
The objectives of the campaign are to:
- highlight the South African Government’s political leadership in the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality rates, celebrate progress made and profile best practice;
- demonstrate Soul City’s commitment to reducing maternal and newborn deaths;
- increase awareness around the issue of maternal and newborn mortality rates;
- use the Pregnancy with Dignity Campaign in order to secure appropriate policy action; and
- highlight the importance of women’s rights.
Soul City and partners identified the following critical areas and actions for safer pregnancies, which are the focus of the advocacy campaign:
Maternal waiting homes
These are dormitory-like facilities close to or at hospitals or clinics. Women come to the waiting homes close to/at the end of their pregnancy, and once labour starts they move to the health facility. Waiting homes are intended for women who live far from hospitals or clinics, who may not be able to get to the hospital quickly, as well as for women with high-risk pregnancies.
An Amnesty International report released at the beginning of October revealed that transport remains a major problem, with roads in some areas in such poor condition that they cannot be used when it rains. According to the report, when women and girls found themselves in labour the ambulance shortage was so profound that they were told to make their own arrangements to get to the hospital. Pregnant woman and communities should be encouraged to develop transport plans with the help of a clinic committee and community based monitors.
Extension of the child support grant to include the pregnancy period
Amnesty International proposed that government start providing child support grants to women before their children are born, as pregnant women in impoverished nations need the grant because finding employment is difficult during pregnancy; the nutritious food they need are expensive, as is the cost of transport to clinics for ante-natal care.
Cell phone airtime vouchers for pregnant women
The National Department of Health (NDoH) launched MomConnect in early 2014, which is an initiative to use cellphone SMS technology to register every pregnant woman in South Africa. Once registered, the system will send each mother pregnancy stage-based messages to support her and her baby during the course of her pregnancy, childbirth, and up to the child's first birthday. Ultimately, this initiative will contribute to efforts to improve the health of mothers and children.
In order to raise awareness of a dignified pregnancy as a human rights issue and to advocate for the above issues, Soul City and partners are developing partnerships with government departments, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders to take up the issues addressed in the campaign.
Community outreach activities are also planned in clinics and youth centres in Gauteng, which will involve a pregnant puppet called Dignity, who will be identified with the campaign and function as a discussion point to assist facilitators in initiating discussions around healthy pregnancies. A booklet will be produced for distribution at these discussions.
The campaign is also seeking to involve the media to raise awareness of the campaign and its advocacy points. A media toolkit has been developed to help journalists develop stories, and a photographic exhibition is also planned which will be based around the four advocacy points.
Soul City is also using the latest "Soul City" television series 12 to raise awareness about healthy pregnancy.
Maternal Health and Child Health
Research from Soul City estimates that "for every 100 000 live births in 2012, there were 310 maternal deaths. With one million lives births in our country every year, this equates to 3100 maternal deaths around the time of pregnancy and during or shortly after giving birth. Child death rates in South Africa continue to be alarmingly high. The death rate for children under the age of 5 years is 41 deaths per 1000 live births, the death rate of infants or children under the age of one year is 27 and the death rate of newborns is 12. South Africa’s National Development Plan implores us to reduce maternal and child death rates. There is consensus that maternal and child deaths should be placed at the top of the Post –2015 agenda."
There are various preventable factors which contribute to the high rate of maternal and child mortality and these are divided into three categories:
- Delay in deciding to seek care by the individual or the family
- Delay in reaching an adequate health care facility
- Delay in receiving adequate care at the facility.
Soul City Institute for Health & Development Communication and Campaign of Accelerated Reduction in Maternal and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA)
Soul City website on November 10 2014.