Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s infant mortality rate is at its lowest in almost two decades‚ having fallen by 32% between 2002 and 2017.

This is according to the SA Survey 2018 published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

The institute said this improvement aligned with a sharp increase in the rate of antenatal first visits by pregnant women.

Analyst Tawanda Makombo said the drop in the infant mortality rate — which measures the deaths of infants under 12 months per 1,000 live births in a year — coincided with a 96% improvement in the rate of antenatal first visits since 2006.

The rate measures the proportion of pregnant women who visit antenatal clinics for the first time before 20 weeks into their pregnancy compared to the number who had at least one antenatal visit before delivery.

The institute said between 2002 and 2017‚ the infant mortality rate decreased from 48.1 per 1,000 live births to 32.8. It also said the rate of antenatal first visits increased from 31.3% to 61.2% between 2006 and 2016.

Makombo said, however, that more could be done to further reduce the infant mortality rate. "The national Department of Health must intensify public awareness efforts‚ and persuade more pregnant women to visit health practitioners for regular check-ups before and after giving birth‚ as this is essential for their babies’ health."