February 2019.

Sister Jakkie Van Niekerk, has put her plans for retirement on hold to head up a mobile outreach programme in the outlying impoverished communities of Ebumnyameni, Donkerhoek, and Ocean View. She is the face of the Healthy Mom and Baby Clinic’s Mobile Clinic alongside Sister Carin Espag that does the crèche visits.

Sister Jakkie worked for the Department of Health for about 20 years on a Mobile Clinic in the surrounding Humansdorp communities. She says that she is blessed with a great deal of energy and a love for caring for the community. She provides health care to 20 – 30 patients a day and she is particularly fond of helping children.

“I’m noticing a lot of children who have hearing and speech difficulties whom have never received any special care; in cases like these we work with The Healthy Mom and Baby Clinic to ensure that they get the help they need,” explained Sister Jakkie.

She goes on to speak about the number of clients that are referred to a network of counsellors to treat psychological / social matters. She also counsels ‘defaulters’: clients that are not using their ARV medication regularly, or at all. “The quicker we assist; the better chance the client has for a healthy future”.

Most concerning are the cases of severe malnutrition, which in some cases require hospitalisation and extended monitoring. Many babies are born underweight, either due to premature birth, substance abuse during pregnancy or merely because mothers don’t receive the right nutrition during pregnancy. If a child does not get the correct nutrition right from the beginning of his/her life, it is very difficult to catch up, which not only impacts physical growth, but emotional, intellectual and mental development too. Malnutrition for 6 months or longer leaves a child with irreversible brain damage. Children need a well-balanced diet, not just something to eat, hence programmes in partnership with the Department of Health’s clinics and hospitals, as well as local NGO’s have been devised to address this serious problem head on.

“Many children are very underweight for their age and require a nutritionally-rich programme. This is followed up by regular weight checks as well as home visits,” added Sister Jakkie.

The Mobile Clinic is about taking the service to the community, with a focus on ‘Mom and Baby’, focusing on the first 1000 days of a baby’s life. Sister Jakkie and her colleagues also do home as part of the revitalization of Primary Healthcare.

Plans are in place to increase community visits to three days per week inclusive of the crèche visits. Sister Jakkie is hoping that sometime in the future, a shelter can be built in Donkerhoek to protect clients from extreme weather conditions, which especially impacts young children.

“I just love my work, I love working with people, and I love examining and diagnosing and then experiencing the pleasure of seeing the patients for a follow-up visit. It’s so amazing to see how they have benefitted from our services,” she concluded.

The funding from Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm supports the mobile clinic’s operational costs, the employment of a Nurse Assistant and a full-time Professional Nurse.