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Infant and Mortality Rate in South Africa

South Africa

Currently, South Africa is one of the leading countries in Africa with the highest death rates. The trends in key indicators of mortality suggest that infant and adult mortality will increase in South Africa. According to Karim and Karim (2010), there are high expectations of death rates increase in South Africa, with male mortality starting from a higher base and remaining higher than female mortality. Furthermore, the rapid increase in infant mortality in the late 1990s and early 2000s provides a compelling reason for focus in South Africa. Mortality rates for different age groups including infants, children, and adults, and overall mortality indicator is a powerful indicator of health status in a country. This paper examines the events surrounding the infant and adult mortality rates in South Africa.

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Location/Geography of South Africa

The Republic of South Africa Occupies the Southernmost part of Africa. It covers an area of approximately 470,000 square miles, one-seventh the area of the United States. South Africa is one of the largest and apparently the most industrialized state in Africa. Bounded in the southeast by the Indian Ocean and in the Southwest by the Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of South Africa shares a boundary with Botswana in the north; Namibia in the Northwest; Swaziland and Mozambique in the northeast; and Zimbabwe and Botswana in the north.

According to Funso Afoloyan (2004), the location of South Africa at the Southern tip of the African continent has had a profound influence on its historical geography, giving it a number of distinctive features. South Africa is the only truly temperate country on the African continent. Like most of the countries in the African continent, narrow strips of coastal lowlands surround the Republic of South Africa with most of its interior dominated by a high plateau.


According to data compiled by Statistic South Africa, the population of the Republic of South Africa in the year 2011was over 50 million people. This data revealed that there was a considerable increase in the population up from 44.8 million since 2011cencus count. The population of females stands at 26 071 721, which is approximately 52 percent, while those males stand at 24 515 036, which is about 48 percent of the total population.

The Republic of South Africa is occupied by different races, with Africans making up 79.5 percent of the total population. The estimate of the colored population and white population stands at 4.5 million, which is approximately 9 percent of the total population. Asians are the minority at 1.3 million, which is approximately 2.5 million of the total population. The table below shows the midyear population estimates for 2011.

Population Group Number % total
African 40 206 275 79.5%
Whites 4 565 825 9.0%
Colored 4 539 790 9.0%
Indian/Asian 1 274 867 2.5%
Total 50 586 757 100%

Source: Statistics South Africa.

Government of South Africa

South Africa is a constitutional democratic state with a federally structured system of Government. It also has an autonomous judiciary operating in a complex system that includes aspects of the parliamentary and presidential systems. The parliament of the Republic of South Africa holds the legal authority while the President, who is head of state and government, and his cabinet, holds the executive authority. In summary, the South African government is made up of three interconnected branches including legislative, consisting of the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly; Executive, consisting of the president who is the head of the government and the state; and Judicial, which consist of the High Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the constitutional court.

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The Republic of South Africa is one of the largest economies in the African continent accounting for 24 percent of the Gross GDP in terms of Purchasing power parity (PPP). Besides Mauritius, Gabon, and Botswana, the World Bank ranks South Africa as a middle-level income economy in Africa. South African Economy is a practically diversified economy with various economic sectors including fishery, manufacturing and assembly, agriculture, telecommunication, and food processing (Statistics South Africa, 2008). Other significant economic sectors include energy, real estate, and many more.

Nevertheless, South Africa has a high level of unemployment, whicall-time time high at 25 percent. The people living in poverty have limited access to basic needs and economic opportunities. Therefore, despite its remarkable economic growth, the Republic of South Africa is characterized by a considerable gap between the rich and the poor. The poor have a high mortality rate as compared to the rich.

State of Health (Diseases/Violence/Accidents)

According to Statistics South Africa (2008), the overall number of registered death in South Africa has increased consistently for each year from 1997 to 2006. In 2006, there were over 600,000-recorded deaths in South Africa. These statistics indicated an increase of 2.3 percent from the 593,337 deaths that occurred in 2005 (Statistics South Africa, 2008). From this data, one can conclude that South Africa has a poor state of health. Diseases and Accidents are the leading cause of death in the Republic of South Africa. The number of deaths in South Africa, in 2005 and 2006, was high in age group 0-4 followed by age group 30-34, while the number was lowest in age group 5-10 and 10-14 (Statistics South Africa, 2008). This data shows that the mortality rate is indeed high in infants and adults.


According to Statistics South Africa (2008), diseases are the main cause of death in South Africa, with infections and parasitic diseases contributed to over a quarter (26 percent) of the total deaths in 2006. Diseases of the Respiratory system followed with 14.2 percent. Other diseases such as the Neoplasm and diseases of the circulatory system contributed to 21.4 percent of the deaths. Pregnancy and childbirth contributed to 0.2 percent of all deaths (Statistics South Africa, 2008).

Accidents and Violence

Data by Statistic South Africa (2008) reveals that Accidents and Injuries are the leading cause of non-natural deaths. While undetermined intent represents about 66.8 percent of all non-natural deaths, transport and violence represent about 22 percent of all non-natural deaths.

Culture/Traditional Medicine

Traditional medicines have been part of South African culture for many centuries. According to Krige (2012), South African Traditional medicines have strong symbolic meaning. For instance, South Africans believe that crocodile skin is the best medicine for treating fever since the crocodile, being a water creature, symbolizes cooling off. While Modern society regards the causation of illness as natural or accidental, traditional Africans regard causation of illness as animistic or magical. Therefore, most South African tribes use traditional medicines for restoring harmony within the body, unlike modern medicines, where medicines are for treating illness. A few example of African medicines were Potassium permanganate solution, which South Africans use to treat stomach aches, Roots of mosokelo plants, which they use for treating diarrhea, and Chicken breast for treating nausea (Krige, 2012).

Healthcare System and Delivery

In South Africa, Healthcare and delivery system varies from the most primary healthcare, offered by the public sector, to highly specialized healthcare available in both the public sector and private sector. Both the private sector and the private sector spend a significant amount on healthcare and delivery systems (World Health Organization, 2012).

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Healthcare Personnel

By January 2011, the medical personnel in the Republic of South Africa was composed of emergency personnel, registered medical practitioners, dental therapists, and oral hygienist. There is a shortage of other health professional including physiotherapists, radiographers, and dieticians.

Nursing Education System and Accrediting Organizations

In South Africa, the organization responsible for accrediting healthcare personnel is the Association of Nursing Agencies in South Africa (ANASA). On the other hand, the SANC and the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) decide the nursing education system in the Republic of South Africa. Currently, the basic qualification of a registered nurse in South Africa is a bachelor degree in related fields.

Nursing Associations

The nurses association of South Africa includes the National Department of Health, South Africa Medical Association (SAMA), International Hospital Federation, and the Democratic Nurses Association of South Africa (DENOSA).

The Health Priorities for the country

The Government of South Africa has come up with various priorities to ensure better healthcare in the country. For instance, the government has increased its public health spending by a significant amount in the last four years. Currently, the Government spending on health is approximately 8.9 percent of the total budget of the country in 2009 (World Health Organization, 2012). Other significant priorities will include establishing a national treatment literacy program, renewing the country’s effort to keep more people enrolled in school, and to focus and reinforce the beneficial effect of the fight against aids (Statistics South Africa, 2012). ANASA can also ensure that the nursing education in South Africa is regularly reviewed to ensure that nurses have adequate experience in healthcare delivery.

Nursing Implications: how can the nursing profession and nurses working in this country play a part in addressing those priorities

Given that the government has increased public spending by a substantial amount, the nurses working in the country now have a vital role of ensuring that high quality health is promoted with better healthcare facilities and prescription of essential medicine and service during healthcare delivery. The nursing profession can also plays a vital role of ensuring that only nurses with adequate experience are recruited into the healthcare system. ANASA can also ensure that the nursing education in South Africa is regularly reviewed to ensure that nurses have adequate experience in healthcare delivery. The nurses can also increase awareness among citizens on the effects of HIV and other pandemic diseases.


Conclusively, while the South African Government has done a marvelous job in ensuring effective education and training of medical doctors, there are still more that need to be done in the country. Given the constant increase in infant and mortality rate in the country, the government together with non-governmental agencies should come up with effective strategies that will promote better healthcare in the country.


Afoloyan, F. (2004). Culture and Custom of South Africa. Westport: Greenwood publishing Group.

Karim, K. and Karim, S. (2010). HIV in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.

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Kriger, D. (2012). Traditional medicines and Healers in South Africa. Journal of the European Writers Association.

Statistics South Africa. (2008). Mortality and cause of death in South Africa, 2006: Findings from death notifications. Web.

World Health Organization. (2012). Statistics. Web.

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