First 1000 Days campaign logo 


Ensure the optimal health of mothers and children from conception to age two so that the children can meet their developmental potential. 

The project aims to

  • Provide excellent mother, infant and child healthcare in central South Africa.
  • Provide selected equipment, training, support, management and research which will improve care in the first 1 000 days of a child’s life.
  • Deliver a community-based programme for the education of expectant mothers, highlighting the importance of nutrition, stimulation and development of a child. 

Current situation

The first 1 000 days of life – from conception to age two – is a critical period during which children’s brains form as many as 1 000 neural connections every second - a pace that will not be repeated in their lifetime. These connections are the building blocks of every child’s future. In conditions of poverty and attendant malnutrition, this foundation is significantly weakened, resulting in 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:
  • Stimulation and learning from the earliest possible moment.
  • Nutrition for the expectant mother and baby.
  • Protection from violence and trauma.
  • Early diagnoses of chronic, life-threatening illnesses and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Unfortunately, that is a tall order for the majority of South Africa’s children.  We need to do everything possible to support overburdened government resources to break the  cycle that condemns our youth to a life of poor learning, lower wages, higher unemployment, reliance on public assistance and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.


The UFS Faculty of Health Sciences project is based at the Universitas Academic Hospital which caters for more than 250 000 children in the southern Free State on a secondary care level and provides tertiary care to a million people from three more provinces, as well patients from Lesotho. 


Proposed interventions

With this initiative to “Make the First 1000 days Count”, the UFS will improve lives in our region, not only in the short term, but also ensuring long term benefits to society and to our country. The focus of the initiative will be on:

  Projects  Budget [R]  timeline (years)
 Optimal Nutrition  5 m 5
 Fellowship in Neurodevelopment 1,5 m 2
 Kangaroo Mother Care for preterm babies 250 000 (once-off)
 Immunisation project 3 m 5
 Eyecare Project 450 000 (once-off)
 Cardiac outreach8 m  (once-off)
 Paediatric Outpatient Project650 000   (once-off)
 Maternal Health Project 750 000  (once-off)
 Family Planning Project 750 000  (once-off)

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