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The lat­est South African De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey shows that gov­ern­ment health poli­cies are bear­ing fruit

The newly re­leased South African De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey (SADHS) cov­ered fer­til­ity, nu­tri­tion and fam­ily plan­ning among other health-re­lated is­sues. What the reasearch shows is that more cit­i­zens are ac­cess­ing pub­lic ser­vices. Gov­ern­ment health poli­cies are bear­ing fruit.


South Africa’s av­er­age fer­til­ity rate has dropped from 2.9 chil­dren in 1998 to 2.6 in 2016.

For women in ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties the rate is 2.4, while there are 3.1 births for ev­ery woman in ru­ral ar­eas.

The per­cent­age of child­less women who did not want a child in­creased from 5.7 per cent in 1998 to 13.3 per cent in 2016.

By the age of 19, 28 per cent of girls have be­gun hav­ing chil­dren. The teenage preg­nancy rate has re­mained at around 71 per cent, but fewer 19-year-olds are hav­ing ba­bies.

The more chil­dren a woman has, the more likely she is to not want more: 50 per cent of women with­out chil­dren want a child, 37 per cent with one child would like an­other, and 13 per cent of women with three or more chil­dren do not want more chil­dren.

Nine per­cent of women sur­veyed re­ported they could not fall preg­nant.


South African in­fant mor­tal­ity rates de­clined by 20 per cent be­tween 1998 and 2016. Child mor­tal­ity rates de­clined by 28 per cent in the same pe­riod.

In 2016, 96 per cent of chil­dren were de­liv­ered in a clinic, com­pared to 83 per cent in 1998.

The pro­por­tion of preg­nant women who re­ceive an­te­na­tal treat­ment from a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional at least once dur­ing their preg­nancy is 93.7 per cent.

• Gaut­eng has the low­est num­ber of women who re­ceive at least four an­te­na­tal con­sults, 62 per cent, where the na­tional av­er­age is 89 per cent.

• Women in ru­ral ar­eas are more likely to re­ceive more than four an­te­na­tal vis­its.

Child health and nu­tri­tion

Vac­ci­na­tions have been ad­min­is­tered to 95 per cent of South African chil­dren but in Mpumalanga 10 per cent of chil­dren be­tween the ages of 12 and 23 months have not had any vac­ci­na­tions.

The per­cent­age of girls re­ceiv­ing vac­cines was 59 per cent, while the rate for boys was 64 per cent. Chronic mal­nu­tri­tion re­mains an is­sue in the coun­try: 27 per cent of chil­dren un­der the age of five were con­sid­ered stunted and 10 per cent were se­verely stunted. Stunt­ing was found to be more of an is­sue among boys (30 per cent) than girls (25 per cent).

• A mother’s level of ed­u­ca­tion and fi­nan­cial wealth are both in­di­ca­tors of the like­li­hood of in­fant stunt­ing. For ex­am­ple, 36 per cent of chil­dren in the low­est wealth quin­tile are con­sid­ered mal­nour­ished with the num­ber de­creas­ing to 24 per cent in the mid­dle quin­tile and 13 per cent in the high­est wealth level.

• On the other end of the spec­trum, 13 per cent of South African chil­dren are over­weight (more than dou­ble the in­ter­na­tional av­er­age of 6.1 per cent).

Sex­ual be­hav­iour and con­tra­cep­tion

Sex­ual pat­terns are starkly dif­fer­ent be­tween men and women in South Africa. Just 5 per cent of women re­port hav­ing two or more part­ners in the pre­ced­ing 12 months and 45 per cent had in­ter­course with a part­ner who did not live with them or was a spouse.

In the 15 to 49 age group, the av­er­age num­ber of sex­ual part­ners for men is 15, and for women is four.

Seven­teen per cent of men in the 15 to 49 age group re­ported hav­ing two or more part­ners and 55 per cent had in­ter­course with some­one who was nei­ther a spouse nor lived with them. Ninety three per cent of South Africans are aware of HIV/AIDS and that you can get tested. How­ever, in the 15 to 24 age group, 31 per cent of peo­ple have never been tested.

Fifty four per cent of women in the 15 to 49 year age group use con­tra­cep­tion and 44 per cent of them re­port be­ing in con­trol of the type of con­tra­cep­tion used.

• Among sex­u­ally ac­tive women 15 per cent have an un­met need for con­tra­cep­tion.

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