Fighting FAS with project baby box

by | Jul 1, 2016 | Lifestyle

UbuntuThe Pebbles Project Baby Box initiative helps moms-to-be in farming areas, who in turn pledge not to drink during their pregnancy.

The Pebbles Project Baby Box initiative was launched last year as part of its First Thousand Day programme which focuses on babies from conception to the age of two. The idea was borrowed from Finland where the state provides each expectant mom with a baby box.

“As a mother, I know how expensive a new baby can be and I can see how farmworkers struggle financially,” says Pebbles Project director, Sophia Warner. “They see a new baby as less of a celebration because of the huge financial strain it can place on a family.”

In 2015 South Africa had an infant mortality rate of 45.1 per 1 000 live births and also the highest recorded number of babies born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). It’s estimated 70 to 80 per 1 000 live births in SA are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), with many others showing signs of partial FAS. The Pebbles Project Baby Box initiative aims to not only reduce infant mortality rates, but also to reduce the number of children born with FASD in the Western Cape’s farmworker communities.

“I was shocked to see the child mortality statistics in South Africa and thought that if a Pebbles baby box could help to reduce this number of deaths in our local community, we would’ve achieved something good,” Sophia says. Pebbles Project’s goal is to provide all pregnant women in the farming areas across the Western Cape with support during their pregnancy, antenatal care at clinics and baby boxes to help them prepare for the birth of their baby.

Moms-to-be must attend a workshop on healthy pregnancy where they sign a pledge not to drink alcohol during their pregnancy. After they’ve registered at a local clinic, signed the pledge and attended the workshop, they’re given a baby box with items that moms need during the first few weeks after the baby’s birth. Pebbles has already delivered three boxes as part of the pilot project.

Each baby box is worth R1 500 and comes with a plastic container that doubles up as a baby bed and bath. Other items in the box include blankets, baby clothing, wipes, nappies and cream.

Sophia says the Pebbles Project Baby Box initiative needs funding so it can be rolled out effectively. “I really believe this can take off. Nothing like this exists in South Africa,” she says. “In the meantime, Pebbles will do what we always do – carry on with something small which I know will snowball.”

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