'Covid-19 doesn’t mean that life stops': Christmas babies bring joy despite devastating year

25 December 2020 - 14:57 By zimasa matiwane
A new mom welcomes her baby into the world at KwaZulu-Natal’s Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital. Hers was one of 54 babies born on Christmas Day before midday.
A new mom welcomes her baby into the world at KwaZulu-Natal’s Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital. Hers was one of 54 babies born on Christmas Day before midday.
Image: Supplied

In a year where sudden, suffocating deaths due to Covid-19 hit many South Africans, joy paid a visit to 54 KwaZulu-Natal families the form of new life.

The province registered 54 Christmas baby births by midday on Friday, with 30 boys and 24 girls born. Adhering to the spirit of a “new normal” world, the provincial health department held a virtual baby welcoming at three hospitals, where staff introduced mothers and babies to health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu and senior departmental staff.

“Covid-19 doesn’t mean that life stops, and the birth of new babies is testament to that,” she said.

The MEC observed, virtually, the handing over of gifts to happy mothers and received feedback on the health status of ecstatic mothers clad in masks, with maternity ward staff also clad in masks and consciously observing social distancing while handing over baby hampers.

The babies, oblivious to the world they have just been born into, were sleeping peacefully, wrapped in fluffy baby blankets and all healthy.

The MEC thanked staff for their dedication in bringing new lives into the world and wished the mothers and babies well.

However, Simelane-Zulu raised concerns about teenage pregnancies, saying the department would have to ramp up its sex and sexuality education campaign while urging parents to get involved.

“Two 16-year-old mothers gave birth at Dundee and Bethesda hospitals respectively. Two 17-year-old mothers gave birth at Benedictine Hospital. One of the babies was fathered by a 26-year-old man, which reveals a 9-year age gap. Bear in mind, the 17-year-old mother would have been a little over 16 years old when she fell pregnant.”

Simelane-Zulu said teenagers who continue to fall pregnant despite reproductive health campaigns, family planning options freely available at all public health facilities spoke to a large challenge that the department and parents alike have to accept.

“Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board for our reproductive health message. Teenage pregnancies are a cause for concern, it poses a challenge to parents and guardians about sexuality, sex and contraceptives.

“We generally urge young people to abstain from sex but should they be sexually active they should use condoms. We as parents must accept that our children will be sexually active and we have a responsibility. It is us parents who have the responsibility to teach our children,” she said.

To prevent unplanned pregnancies, Simelane-Zulu urged young men and women who experiment in sex to use condoms,  adding that it will also protect them from contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

“Let us keep them [condoms] in our bags. That is not taboo and neither is parents talking about safe sex to their children, because if we do not teach them they will get wrong information from friends. It is our responsibility,” she added.

KwaZulu-Natal has seen a sharp rise in daily Covid-19 infections and continues to record high numbers during the second wave.

“Over the past 24-hour reporting period, the province has registered 4,568 new Covid ——19 infections, bringing the province’s cumulative number of Covid-19 cases to 171,455.

“Sadly, 28 people passed away from Covid-19 just before Christmas, which brings the total number of Covid-19 deaths to 3,901,” she revealed.

The MEC described the numbers as “astronomically high” and extremely concerning.

According to the department, KwaZulu-Natal currently has 2,918 patients admitted in hospitals, in both the public (989) and private sectors (1,929). Of those admitted, 14% required intensive care services.

“Of the total number of available operational beds (1,485), 41% were vacant while 355 ICU beds are occupied.”

She urged citizens to adhere to preventive measures and obey Covid-19 regulations.

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