The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Wednesday revealed that South Africa’s infant mortality rate was at its lowest in almost two decades, having fallen by 32 percent between 2002 and 2017.
Analyst Tawanda Makombo said the statistics revealed telling gains in the health sector in South Africa, but argued that more could be done to further reduce the infant mortality rate.
“The national department of health must intensify public awareness efforts and persuade more pregnant women to visit health practitioners for regular check-ups before and after giving birth, as this is essential for their babies’ health.”
Makombo said the improvement aligned with a sharp increase in the rate of antenatal first visits by pregnant women. The drop in the infant mortality rate, which measures the deaths of infants under one per 1,000 live births in a year, coincides with a 96 percent improvement in the rate of antenatal first visits since 2006.
The rate of antenatal first visits measures the proportion of pregnant women who visit antenatal clinics for the first time before 20 weeks of their pregnancy over the number of women who had at least one antenatal visit before delivery.
“Between 2002 and 2017, the infant mortality rate decreased from 48.1 per 1,000 live births to 32.8 per 1,000 live births. The rate of antenatal first visits increased by 96% between 2006 and 2016, from 31.3 percent to 61.2 percent,” said Makombo.