The South Africa Citizens' Hearing
The Citizen’s hearing in South Africa was held on 9th June 2015. Government, members of civil society, local pastors, men, women and children came together in Nseleni, Umvoti Municipality to learn and talk about neonatal, child, adolescence, and maternal health - the threats that are faced by the health system and the urgent actions required if we are to deal and/ or escape this situation. People involved in the production of food, both farmers and fishers spoke out at the hearing. At the hearing participants heard about the challenges the Nseleni community faces in accessing health services, water quality and the struggle faced by low-income families trying to access even the minimum nutrition their children need.
Over the course of almost 5 hours, government, activists, learners, youth, men and mothers made oral presentations. A total of 138 people attended the free event, listened, asked questions, and discussed what they saw and heard. The delegation was composed of community members, community structures such as Induna, Ward Committee members, CCGs, churches, crèche teachers and children, Intsika Yethu Support Group members, and group of learners from Hermannsburg School, World Vision South Africa Staff, Umvoti Area Development Programme (ADP) Committee members and stakeholders. Stakeholders included IKwezi FM and those affiliating in the Operation Sukuma Sakhe – Local Task Team i.e. Umvoti AIDS Centre, LETCEE, State bodies ranging from Departments of Health, Education, Social Development, Justice, SASSA, COGTA to Umvoti Local Municipality.
Hearing included a broad range of presenters - not just experts, but healthcare professionals, mothers, men, youth, and school children.
Participants were split into a youth group, women’s group and men’s group. Youth representatives identified unprescribed medication a major issue as there is no clinic. The mobile clinic only comes once in a while meaning many resort to other forms of medication or traditional medication. The women’s group highlighted the problems of poor transport:
“If you are pregnant and you happen to experience complications on the day when the mobile clinic is not there it is highly likely that you might lose your baby especially if you cannot hire a car to take you to the nearest hospital” Citizen presenting on behalf of the mothers.
The men’s group shared that engagement or collaborative problem solving between citizens and duty bearers was lacking, information dissemination from both the government and CSOs wasn’t there, even that information that was meant for community consumption hasn’t trickled down to the very people who were meant to use it.
The following list of recommendations were developed at the hearing:
• Ensure that the most vulnerable groups, are entitled to and are effectively provided equitable access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health, health prevention and mental health;
• Ensure that all pregnant women and children, irrespective of their status, are entitled to and effectively benefit from social protection;
• Promote policies allowing all adolescents and women including children, to fully enjoy their fundamental rights, in particular their right to health;
• Strengthen information sharing and a feedback mechanism for citizens to know what is available at the health facilities and what their entitlements are;
• Improve access to health services for adolescents with a specific focus on youth-friendly services at all health facilities.