Calls for social assistance for pregnant mothers

There is movement on a proposal to provide financial assistance to pregnant mothers. Picture: Tracey Adams

There is movement on a proposal to provide financial assistance to pregnant mothers. Picture: Tracey Adams

Published Mar 14, 2024


Cape Town - There is movement on a proposal to provide financial assistance to pregnant mothers as opposed to waiting until a child is born in order to disperse a social grant.

Advocates for this includes SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science – Priceless SA (Priority Cost Effective Lessons in Systems Strengthening South Africa) Associate Professor, Susan Goldstein.

Citing immeasurable health and well-being benefits, particularly as the first 1 000 days have been proven a critical time in an infant’s life, Goldstein alongside health economist Dr Aisha Moolla stated in a recent Op-ed, that the government would ultimately also save money in the long-run as children will be born healthier and health conditions such as stunting will be prevented.

“Poverty among expectant mothers often results in sub-optimal maternal nutrition and inadequate antenatal care, with negative consequences on child health outcomes.

“A baby’s first 1 000 days, from the time of conception until their second birthday, is a crucial window of opportunity to optimise that child’s potential – through healthy nutrition for the mother during pregnancy, and then for the child after birth,” Goldstein said.

In South Africa, around 35% of pregnant women ran out of money to buy food, and 25% experienced hunger, according to Goldstein.

“Undernutrition during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the child in-utero and later in life (obesity and non-communicable diseases are some of these).

“The Grant during pregnancy will enable better nutrition of the mother and the baby.”

According to Goldstein, the monetary savings of extending the grant through pregnancy amounted to R31 200 per child and a total saving of R31.3 billion.

Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town senior legal researcher, Paula Proudlock, said women who were employed became more vulnerable to loss of income during pregnancy and after the birth of their baby, especially contract workers and those in the informal sector.

“Providing income support to pregnant women to ensure they can eat healthily and afford the transport costs to attend regular health visits for their pregnancy will have long-term health benefits for both the women and the children, which in turn will result in long-term benefits for the country and economy.”

Proudlock said the Department of Social Development was proposing the introduction of income support for pregnant women living in poverty to promote improved maternal and young child health and development.

She recommended that the application for pregnancy income support is made in the second trimester as most miscarriages happened in the first trimester.

“If a miscarriage or stillbirth happens in the second or third trimester, after the grant is already in payment, we would recommend that it be continued to be paid for the full duration of the full pregnancy period to promote good mental health outcomes for the mother.

“Cancelling income support at the same time that a woman has lost her baby would be detrimental to her mental health and her ability to continue to care for her other children,” Proudlock said.

Since 2020, the number of infants not receiving the Child Support Grant has increased, especially in the Western Cape.

Department of Social Development spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, said the department has been on the path to include maternal benefits.

“This is actually our policy that has been consulted extensively.

“We are now in the process of going to Cabinet for approval to gazette for public comments.”

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