Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has welcomed the 2016 South African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS), saying some of its key results prove that government intervention has worked, while also alerting government to issues that need to be addressed.
“This type of report always made our work easier because we then know what to do. What gets measured gets done and I think that’s the direction you have given us today because we know what to do and when,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
Speaking shortly after receiving the survey from Statistician General Pali Lehohla on Monday, the Minister said he was happy to see that the report has noted that teenage pregnancy is not related to South Africa’s child support grant.
“One of the significant things that will give us direction is your observation that teenage pregnancy is not related to the child support grant. Quite often when countries don’t get statistics like these, we start determining our fate through emotions, or just pure common sense and expect government to act accordingly,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
This, as Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released the findings of the survey prior to handing it over to the Minister.
The SADHS produces information on the health and nutrition of South Africa’s population. The survey was implemented in collaboration with the Department of Health and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
The Minister welcomed the Statistician General’s promise that the study would be conducted every five years. The survey was first conducted in 1998, with the last one conducted in 2003.
“I’m sure if Stats SA keeps on releasing statistics like these, that [notion that teenagers become pregnant in order to access child grants] will start to come down.”
This as the report showed that by the time young women reach 19-years, only 28% of girls have begun childbearing.
“There is a notion that grants influence young girls to produce children. The evidence before us over a period of 2008 to 2016 does not show any increase in the proportion of teenagers who are giving birth therefore it’s a myth, we dispel that myth. By 19-years of age 28% of girls have begun child bearing,” said Lehohla.
The figure had previously been 35%.
Fertility rate and contraceptives
In addition, the 2016 SADHS showed that the total fertility rate stood at 2.4% for urban women and at 3.1% for non-urban women.
“South Africa is entering a demographic winter as the rate of the number of children a woman gives birth to over her lifetime reduces from 2.9 to 2.6%,” noted Lehohla.
The report noted that 50% of married mothers, who already have two children, have no desire for more children.
When coming to the use of contraceptives, 58% of all women aged 15 to 49 not only used contraception but also applied modern methods of contraception (including female and male sterilisation and the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD), among others.
Sexual behaviour and HIV awareness
When coming to sexual behaviour and HIV awareness, Lehohla said South Africans are very much aware of HIV. The report found that 92% of women aged 15 to 49 knew where to get tested for HIV, while the figure for men was at 93%.
The average lifetime sexual partners among all men aged 15 to 49 who have ever had sexual intercourse came to 15, while that of women in the same age bracket came in at 4.
By 2016, 96% of the delivery of children was in a clinic compared to 83% in 1998. However, the report expressed concern as stunting continued to pose a challenge. “Stunting remains real as children under five fail to grow at the corresponding pace to their age,” said the report.
The SADHS found that only 61% of children aged 12 to 23 months received all basic vaccinations and only 53% received all age-appropriate vaccinations.
The report found that Mpumalanga had just over 10% pf children aged 12 to 23 months who have had no vaccination, double that of the South African average of 5%.
In response to this, Minister Motsoaledi said Department of Health officials would look into this.
“We are going to rush because just a month ago I was meeting a team that deals with the immunisation programme and they were praising Mpumalanga as number 1 with Polio [vaccination],” he said.
Smoking and alcohol
Overall 7% of women aged 15 and above smoke tobacco products, while the prevalence of tobacco use is at 37% for men aged 15 and above. Since 1998 the percentage of women and men who smoke tobacco has decreased with a total 11% of women and a total 42% of men having been smoking in 1998.
“We also welcome the proof that smoking has come down. People have been debating, those who like to smoke arguing that government laws have not changed the pattern of smoking. I’m happy that a body like Stats SA has proven that indeed it has and significantly so,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
In 2000, South Africa became one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking in public places through the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act.