*Update: The Department of Social Development replied in January to one of our tweets that the maternity support grant is under discussion and public comments were being finalised. We asked for more information about the public comment process but did not get a response. We will keep you updated as the campaign progresses.*
The future of children in South Africa hangs in the balance. A quarter of children in South Africa are stunted, a condition caused by not eating enough nutritious food to promote growth and health of the fetus . From conception to birth to the toddler years, children are vulnerable to stunting, which has consequences that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It impacts children’s ability to learn well and reach important developmental milestones for their brains and bodies .
Pregnancy is an economically vulnerable time for most women . Those with limited or no income struggle to get nutritious food, access to health services and other forms of support necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Most times they have to make choices between other necessities and pregnancy care. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Providing pregnant people with a maternity support grant can significantly reduce the risk of stunting and other forms of malnutrition, helping expecting mothers access the nutrition and services needed to give children a chance to reach their full potential.
In several countries where governments provide financial support during pregnancy, it has been shown that it benefits a healthy pregnancy . Women get motivated to visit healthcare facilities for antenatal care, as well as feel empowered to make the right nutritional choices. In a country like South Africa where most low-income pregnant women would rely on public transport to get to healthcare facilities, this is a benefit that cannot be undermined.
South Africa is facing a future with one of the most unacceptable societal realities; children are born malnourished and face consistent hunger. This was a growing problem before the COVID-19 pandemic and it has now escalated. Already in 2018 it was estimated that issues of malnutrition cost South Africa billions of rands . And this year Statssa released a report which states that more than 60 percent of South African children are “multidimensionally poor” . This means that they are living in households where they face lack of at least three dimensions of poverty simultaneously (such as nutrition, health, protection, housing, water and sanitation, etc.). Yet our government continues to fail to prioritise children in its social assistance programs. We can help change the plight of Mzansi children by supporting their pregnant mothers with financial help during their pregnancy, knowing that the first 1000 days of a child’s life including time in the womb are important for their development .
Pregnant women going hungry, and children born malnourished should concern all who want South Africa to thrive.
Dear Minister Lindiwe Zulu
A quarter of children in SA are stunted and face development challenges that affect their quality of life and prospects in the future. A maternity support grant will help pregnant women have the means to have beneficial nutritional and health support during pregnancy, to prevent these challenges. Some pregnancy complications are avoidable as they are the result of pregnant women not having the means for good care. You can help change the fate of children in SA by giving their mothers maternity support, as this will benefit the potential of the country.
 Stunting – the silent killer of South Africa’s potential, Snikiwe Mqati for DGMT, November 2017
 South Africa’s child support grant should start in pregnancy, Matthew Cherisch and Sharon Fonn for Wits news, February 2017
 South Africa must focus on its kids to meet UN development goals targets, Winnie Sambu and Lucy Jamieson for the conversation Africa, June 2018