UKZN, through the Discipline of Public Health Medicine, has made headway in implementing one of three strands in the re-engineering of primary health care policy initiated Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, National Minister of Health and UKZN alumnus. 
 
Funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and requested by the Department of Health (DoH), UKZN successfully conducted the first week of a series of training workshops to be held as part of a Leadership Mentorship programme for District Clinical Specialist Teams (DCSTs) in the province.
 
The DCSTs gathered at UKZN’s Westville campus where they are being orientated in their new roles. Their mandate is to improve the quality of lives for mothers, new-borns and children.
 
This is in line with the DoH goal to reduce the high maternal and child mortality rates in the country, and UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized.
Dr Victoria Mubaiwa, DoH Manager for Maternal and Child Health said the Leadership Mentorship programme is year-long and a priority for government.
 
District teams outlined various challenges impacting their local health systems. ‘You really need to know your district,’ said a team from the Ugu District in the South Coast. 
 
‘Mothers are starting their antenatal clinic very late; “some after five months”, and then saving the baby is not 100 percent guaranteed.’
 
They reported an increase in incidents of severe malnutrition and diarrhoea, ‘especially in informal settlements.’
 
The team has found that most mothers residing in rural areas are still breastfeeding, and the standard of living differs for those living residing in informal settlements. 
 
‘We need a huge turn-around strategy from the DoH. Mothers living in informal settlements go out to work and leave their babies on formula milk instead of breastfeeding.’
The teams said they have learnt a lot about the importance of communication and the empathy of staff, and good leadership skills. They said the week’s programme was a good memory refresher and has inspired them to become good leaders in their districts.