MEC Madoda Sambatha observes Birth Defects Day, March 3

MEC Madoda Sambatha raises awareness as the world observes Birth Defects Day

On March 3, 2022 every year, the Ministry of Health joins the world in raising awareness of birth defects known as birth defects, birth defects, or congenital conditions. There are many types of birth defects and this day recognizes our collective voice in raising awareness of all birth defects.

It is estimated that 240,000 newborn babies die each year worldwide within 28 days of birth due to birth defects. Birth defects cause an additional 170,000 deaths of children aged 1 month to 5 years.

The main causes of congenital malformations are mainly:

  • Genetic. One or more genes may have a change or mutation that prevents them from working properly.
  • Chromosomal problems.
  • Exposures to drugs, chemicals or other toxic substances.
  • Infections during pregnancy.
  • Lack of certain nutrients.

Birth defects can lead to disabilities that can be physical, intellectual or developmental. Disabilities can range from mild to severe. The most common serious birth defects are:

  • heart defects
  • Neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

Rare birth defects include: to name a few

  • Smith Lemli Opitz syndrome.
  • Spinal muscular atrophy.
  • Tuberous sclerosis.
  • Turners Syndrome.
  • X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome (Duncan’s disease)

Birth defects are divided into two main types: structural disorders in which problems are seen with the shape of a part of the body and functional disorders in which problems exist with the functioning of a part of the body.

Structural defects may include, but are not limited to, malformed fingers, hands or arms, malformed toes, feet or legs, undescended testicles, low ears, absent or underdeveloped lungs, missing or malformed ears.

Some birth defects can be prevented. Vaccination, adequate folic acid or iodine intake through staple food fortification or supplementation, and adequate care before and during pregnancy are examples of prevention methods.

“As some of the causes of birth defects are preventable, the Ministry of Health urges all pregnant women to take full advantage of the antenatal services offered by our health facilities to ensure that they deliver healthy babies,” said MEC Madoda Sambatha.

Recent statistics show that up to one in 15 babies in South Africa is affected by a birth defect, with up to 70% of birth defects being treatable or preventable.

For media inquiries:
Tebogo Lekgethwane,
Departmental spokesperson
[email protected](link sends e-mail)

Motlalepula Lekoma
Media Liaison: MEC for Health
0820897117 or [email protected]

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