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First 1 000 Days campaign set for launch

Mother and Child Academic Hospital (MACAH) will on Sunday (Nov 1) launch a campaign, in conjuction with the University of the Free State (UFS), to provide healthcare to mothers, their babies, and children.

Dubbed ‘the First 1 000 Days’, the initiative seeks to create awareness on the need to give babies a good start to life.

Dr Lizzy Tabane, the Head of Department for Paediatrics and Child Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UFS said it’s vital to improve  youth’s knowledge about the first 1 000 days.

“Better knowledge amongst our youth about the first 1 000 days is crucial for them to plan their careers and dream big about their future. This could also have an impact on the quality of life of their children,” noted Tabane.

“We need to empower our youth through awareness and knowledge to make the right choices in their lives,” she pointed out.

According to Prof André Venter, MACAH Founding Director, “there is pregnancy and two years to get it right”.

Said Venter, “If we don’t get it right, there are dire consequences, especially for newborn babies. So let’s look at these first 1 000 days. Firstly, there is the pregnancy and we would want it to be as good as possible. That means the mother must be in good mental and physical health and have a good social and economic support to carry her through this time. Once the baby is born, there has to be people to look after it. The baby needs to bond, and this is a magical time.”

Venter explained the mother-child dyad is important because the mother is there to make sure the child is adequately fed and develops well.

The mother is also there to provide emotional support. If this is lacking, the baby can grow up with marked emotional and behavioural difficulties, which will not stand it in good stead for its future.

Venter, who is passionate about children and their development, nutrition, growth and thriving, is passionate about the campaign as it is one of the main interventions that are effective to break the generational cycle of poverty in a population.

“If we don’t look after our pregnant mothers and our young children, we put them on a trajectory that is always going to fail the child in the future. If we can get the first 1 000 days right, we can perhaps get them on the trajectory they should be, so that they fulfill their destiny and have a much more fulfilling life, financially, physically, and  also emotionally,” he said.

He added: “It is urgent and imperative that we get it right. We have to break the cycle of misery, poverty and unrequited dreams now.”

By: Neo Ntsele