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A New Era for Our South Africa Program

It has been m2m’s long-term goal to integrate the Mentor Mother model into national health systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa in order to facilitate local ownership, ensure the program’s sustainability and expand its reach.  In October, we took a significant step towards reaching that goal in South Africa with a new five year, $15 million grant from PEPFAR/USAID that will be used to assist the South African government in integrating the Mentor Mother model into the local public health systems of selected priority districts.
In the eleven years since mothers2mothers opened its first site in Cape Town, we have made significant contributions to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and improvements to maternal health.  We opened hundreds of m2m sites across South Africa and expanded the Mentor Mother program into eight other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This has enabled us to provide more than one million women and their babies with lifesaving information and support to date.  In the process, we have gained international recognition for the success of our Mentor Mothers model in harnessing the power of mothers to deliver critical services and strengthen under-resourced health systems.
Now m2m is embarking on a new era in South Africa by transitioning into the role of local capacity builder.  With the support of the new USAID/PEPFAR grant, m2m will assist the South African government develop high quality Mentor Mother programs in at least five provinces and seven districts that will be operated by government district health management teams.This is the first step towards establishing a national South African Mentor Mother program.
m2m’s evolution in South Africa is consistent with global and national plans to promote healthy motherhood and end pediatric AIDS by 2015. Once the transition is complete, we anticipate the Mentor Mother program will reach an even greater number of mothers and pregnant women living with HIV in South Africa and offer a wider range of services.
“The plan will ultimately establish Mentor Mother programs at 600 sites in South Africa, doubling the number of sites mothers2mothers has operated in the country in the past.  The locally-run programs will also be expanded to offer more support services to women, including TB screening, infant nutrition, well baby clinics, support for HIV-negative women and education about cervical cancer screening, gender-based violence and infant nutrition,” said Shungu Gwarinda, m2m’s Country Director in South Africa.
“We are excited about this coming transition and are proud that the South African government has recognized our program’s effectiveness, and that they see the value of incorporating it into their health care systems so they can offer it more widely and comprehensively to women and their families across the country,” added Gwarinda.
In order to successfully make this transition , m2m has scaled down its direct service delivery footprint and will continue to operate 100 sites in communities most heavily impacted by pediatric AIDS and high rates of HIV. That includes 25 model sites funded by USAID that will be used to train government-employed Mentor Mothers, as well as pilot new Mentor Mothers services and conduct operations research.
m2m’s change in focus in South Africa builds on work we are undertaking in Kenya.  m2m is providing technical assistance to the Kenya government and partner organizations to place Mentor Mother services into health centers throughout the country.  m2m has also worked with local partners in Zambia, Rwanda, Botswana and Ethiopia to establish the Mentor Mother model.
“We are looking forward to working with the South Africa government to create a robust Mentor Mother program,” said m2m Founder and Medical Director Dr. Mitch Besser. “We are also grateful to our funders for their generous support of our South Africa program over the years, through the current transition, and for future programming. Their support has helped make m2m’s Mentor Mother program the global model it is today.”
These funders include Johnson & Johnson, MAC AIDS Fund, the Bickerstaff Family Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, CIDA, Comic Relief, the Discovery Foundation,  the Red Ribbon Foundation, and the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Health.

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