‘Make The 1st 1000 Days Count Initiative

A fundraising initiative of the University of the Free State’s Department of Institutional Advancement, in co-operation with the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and the MACAH Foundation.


Join us now as we boldly take the first steps to chart a better future for the babies – and their mothers – of the Free State and beyond. Your support will help us seize that pivotal time, that critical window of opportunity, to ensure our children are not condemned to a lifetime of disadvantage and inequality, but instead get the chance to reach their full potential.



To boost crucial interventions in the state health sector that lay the foundation for optimal health, growth and neurodevelopment of underprivileged children, with a view to seeing them meet their developmental potential. Integral to achieving this goal is ensuring that mothers receive the care and support they need.



The first 1000 days of life – from conception to age two – is a critical period during which children’s brains can form as many as 1000 neural connections every second, a once-in-a-lifetime pace that will never be repeated during their lives. What is key is that these connections are the building blocks of every child’s future. Yet, in conditions of poverty, attendant malnutrition and maternal diseases, this foundation is significantly weakened, resulting in, among other things, irreversible damage to children’s brain development, poor growth and compromised immunity.

The science is clear about what a young brain needs to make these fundamental connections:

Unfortunately, that is a tall order for the majority of South Africa’s children, which makes it the responsibility of everybody, to do everything possible to support overburdened government resources to help break this inter-generational cycle that condemns our youth to a life of poor learning, lower wages, higher unemployment and increased reliance on public assistance. It can also put them at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers later in their lives.

The harsh reality is that the damage done by malnutrition during the first years of a child’s life translates into a huge economic burden for countries such as ours, costing billions of valuable rands in lost productivity and preventable healthcare spending.

Improving nutrition and the health of the mother and her child during the first 1000 days can avert much of this serious and irreparable damage, making it a no-brainer for governments, international and local organisations, civil society and the private sector to pull together to invest in programmes targeted at this pivotal period of life.

All our children deserve the chance to grow, to learn, and to thrive.


While the responsibility to provide access to healthcare at all appropriate levels and to reduce peri-natal mortality is firmly entrenched in South Africa’s Healthcare Act, the Strategic Development Goals and our Constitution, it is clear that the Department of Health in the Free State cannot bear this enormous burden alone. In our province specifically, the fragmentation of paediatric and obstetric tertiary services has a serious negative impact on achieving the outcomes of the Provincial Strategic Transformation Plan.

This initiative will form part of the academic platform of the UFS Faculty of Health Sciences which provides tertiary care to a million people in the Free State, Northern Cape, parts of Northwest and Eastern Cape and as well as patients from Lesotho.

Among the most pressing issues currently facing the hospital are the following:

The overburdened service platform is further impacted by underestimates of the effect of HIV/AIDS on obstetric and paediatric care. HIV/AIDS is also a major contributing factor to very low birth-weight babies.

Lower level hospitals in the region that are failing to cope as a result of increased patient numbers and staff attrition, has resulted in Universitas Academic Hospital being over-run with obstetric patients requiring Level 2 and Level 3 interventions. Delayed treatment of avoidable conditions contributes to the lack of access to care. This inappropriate use of expensive infrastructure and clinical expertise, along with resultant duplication of administrative and managerial services, all impacts severely on an already over-stretched healthcare budget.


Our new fundraising initiative is aimed specifically at new programmes targeting maternal health and the first 1000 days of a child’s life. It includes a commitment to advancing clinical innovation and staff training, while facilitating refurbishment projects and securing equipment upgrades where necessary.

Our planned interventions to support children during that vital development stage span primary, secondary and tertiary care. They address the entire spectrum of mother-and-child services, with the initial focus on the following:

AWARENESS: Maternal education is a major component, and one which will see benefits passed down to improve the future health of generations of children to come, and ultimately the well-being of our nation. Messages will be delivered via:



Annamia van den Heever, Director of Institutional Advancement

Founding directors:
Professor Gert van Zyl
Professor Andre Venter
Dr Riana van Zyl
Newly appointed director:
Ms Khumo Selebano


Every cent counts, so help us to help ensure that every child and mother in our community gets the chance to live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.

Call: Tertia de Bruin +27 82 8086099
Email: foundation@macahfoundation.org.

“I have never believed in women and child health as much as I do now. Having studied medicine and being a mother, made me realise that the health of a woman and her child is of utmost importance when it comes to the health of a nation. And you ask me how we can make a difference? ...”

– Rolene Strauss, former Miss World and Patron of the MACAH Foundation.