Date: 15 June 2008
Source: Department of Health
Title: SA: Tshabalala-Msimang: Taking Services to the Rural Poor
Let us revive the spirit of voluntarism!
MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Peggy Nkonyeni
Community Leaders and Counsellors of Esibhudeni
The School Principal, Educators, and the School Governing Body
Dr Bongani Nxumalo and the Leadership of Khanya Africa
Volunteers of Khanya Africa
Community members and Learners
Ladies and gentlemen
It is with a sense of gratitude, pride and honour that I stand here today, at the eve of June 16. As you all know, June is "Youth Month", and it symbolises the struggle by our youth against injustices that permeated our country for many decades. Tomorrow, 16 June 2008, we will commemorate that historic day in 1976, when our young lions took it upon themselves to claim their freedom from oppression, disease and infirmity.
My purpose for being here today is to join you in acknowledging and expressing our sincere gratitude to the volunteers from the organisation known as Khanya Africa, which was established here in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, in Uthungulu District, and which provides its services across the province. Khanya Africa consists of a group of young men and women who are trained and qualified health professionals, such as medical officers, specialists; medical pharmacists, nurses, and occupational therapists, amongst others.
They have not forgotten their roots and have come together to serve the communities from which they originate, by providing clinical and therapeutic services to health facilities across the province on an outreach basis, and by also imparting skills to healthcare providers. Khanya Africa is a Not-for-Profit Organisation (NPO). These are the young and purposeful people determined through thick and thin to help their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, and the elderly.
They provide their services voluntarily and at times against all odds. This was aptly demonstrated just recently by the group's braving of stormy and bad weather; travelling on poor roads and literally being stuck in the mud necessitating an unplanned overnight stopover at Ekhombe.
However, this did not cause them to yield or waiver in achieving the objective they set out to achieve. Khanya Africa reminds us of the Sons of Luthuli, the volunteers who selflessly served under our great leader Inkosi Albert Luthuli, in the 1960s. As a community, you have also witnessed the commitment of Khanya Africa Volunteers to contribute together with you in improving the health of this community, by going from house to house to serve, to inform, educate and assist the healing of the sick. What other better role models can you get?
To the other young people in this community, please take a leaf from the great example set by Khanya Africa, seek and you will find your purpose in life, and serve society with all your heart and soul. Like the generation of 1976, you will be remembered by future generations as your names are read in the annals of South African history.
I am also grateful to Ngwelezane Hospital, Uthungulu District and the Provincial Department in KwaZulu-Natal for all the support you have provided to the work of Khanya Africa. Clearly more needs to be done to further support you and the Department of Health of Health will spare no effort in assisting by all means possible. I am also reliably informed that a Service Level Agreement (SLA) has been drawn up, to formalise and maximise the assistance provided by the Provincial Department of Health to Khanya Africa and that this will be signed by both parties in the immediate future. Mr Nkosi, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health and Dr Bongani Nxumalo of Khanya Africa are leading this process, with the assistance of the National Department of Health.
Programme Director, I wish to turn to a subject that it is very close to my heart - the Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles, which also promotes physical activity and safe sexual behaviour, tobacco control and interventions against alcohol and substance abuse. We all know the effects of these health risks particularly during pregnancy. I would like to urge all to take responsibility for your lives, and live them to the fullest.
I urge all community members of Esibhudeni to visit our health facilities to be screened for diseases such hypertension, diabetes, prostate cancer and abnormal growths. This will help identify and prevent disease conditions early whilst they can still be treated, thus minimising complications, morbidity and mortality. May I repeat, please do not wait until you experience pain, as this is usually the main symptom that drives our community members, especially men, to seek healthcare.
Tomorrow, 16 June being also Father's Day, may I also encourage all fathers to take active interest in their own health and the general wellbeing of their families. Men should to go to health facilities for a general examination of their health status, especially for prostate cancer screening. I also encourage mothers and women in general to go to health facilities for cervical cancer screening, especially women above the age of 25 years.
Our Cervical Cancer Screening Policy focuses on women aged 30 years and above, but we have the latest scientific evidence that indicates that even younger women are developing cervical cancer hence the need to go for screening earlier. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer amongst South African women. Approximately one in 41 women will, in their lifetime, develop this form of cancer. The success of these screening programmes that are conducted in our clinics is dependant on good and sustained attendance rates at health facilities by women at high risk.
Cervical cancer is strongly linked to certain strains of sexually transmitted viruses. Progression of the disease is slow and hence offers an opportunity to diagnose early and undergo decisive treatment. Screening does not involve cervical cancer only in women and prostate cancer in men but all public health illnesses such as tuberculosis (TB) and other communicable and sexually transmitted diseases.
Programme Director, let me address myself to mothers who have just given birth and also encourage them to take their newborn children for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing at six weeks after birth, should it be necessary. Nurses at our clinics will indicate to the relevant mothers and make appointments for them. According to our Patient's Right Charter, you are entitled to information, respect, dignity and confidentiality. However, you should also take responsibility for your own health.
June is "Blood Donation Month" and blood is a scarce and most precious commodity in our lives. As the Khanya Africa volunteers are going around may they encourage community members who can donate blood, to please do so, and could you please give them your support.
Let us not allow incidents like the violence that happened at Bhilibane High School to tarnish the good that has been done thus far in this community, and which is being constantly repeated by Khanya Africa Volunteers.
Remember, there are no winners in any conflict situation. The Right Reverend Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu always quotes what his father taught him, which was "Strengthen your argument but do not raise your voice".
I believe that negotiation skills are taught at some stage during the school's guidance classes and if not, now is the time to add them to life skills guidance for all the learners.
I am also highly concerned that we have a shebeen right at the doorstep of two schools adjacent to one another. Alcohol consumption is a major factor in cases of violence and trauma and contributes significantly to non-natural causes of death in the country. We all know the effects of alcohol, particularly on the intellect or brain functioning of the youth that we are trying to guide and nurture. Alcohol does not only have detrimental effects to our bodies, it also impairs our sense of balance and judgment.
Early exposure to alcohol abuse, may later lead to dysfunctional families and broken homes, and may also destroy the moral fibre of our society, a society we all are proud of as South Africans. What are we doing to our children's future if as parents we close our eyes to availability of alcohol on the doorsteps of schools? May I appeal to the leaders and the community of Esibhudeni to reflect on this and to speedily address resolution to this challenge? To the community at large, let us bury our hatchets and move on in search of peace and prosperity without allowing evil to triumph over the good that we do most of the time.
In conclusion, let me thank Dr Bongani Nxumalo, Khanya Africa Chairperson for the sterling work that he and the volunteers are performing.
Keep it up and may increasing numbers of young people join you in the wonderful work you are doing. Let me also thank the MEC of Health in KwaZulu-Natal for her leadership over this important work being done. We also look forward to the formalisation of your relationship with Khanya Africa through the Service Level Agreement.
Let us revive the spirit of Voluntarism that was demonstrated by the Sons of Luthuli, and the selflessness of the Youth of 1976.
Mayikhanye i-Africa, ibonwe kude, kukhulunywe ngayo emazweni.
I thank you all.
Issued by: Department of Health
15 June 2008
Source: Department of Health (http://www.doh.gov.za)