South Africa is one of a small number of developing countries that’s formulated a national policy focused on families. A family policy, broadly defined, refers to everything a government does to promote the well-being of families, such as social grants, family services, or social housing. The country’s policy – known as the White Paper on Families – has three priorities. They are promoting healthy family life, strengthening the family and preserving the family.
Very few mothers in South Africa exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of life as recommended by the World Health Organisation – with only 1 in 4 babies exclusively breastfed by the time they are 4 – 5 months old. And these low exclusive breastfeeding rates contribute to the high prevalence of malnutrition, diarrhoea, pneumonia and under-five mortality in South Africa.
There are still 12 years to go before the UN sustainable development goals are finalised. For South Africa to meet the targets it must focus on providing evidence-based programmes for the most vulnerable and accelerate access to essential services.
Our overall evaluation is that South Africa has made significant progress with some targets. But it’s still lagging far behind with others.