Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has launched a new contraceptive device, which will from June, be available to women, free at all state clinics.
The contraceptive device - which is a sub-dermal implant lasting three years - is expected to decrease the number of unwanted and teenage pregnancies and reduce the number of maternal deaths in the country.
The device is implanted below the skin of the arm and will be added on the current birth control methods used by women to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Minister Motsoaledi unveiled the new device at the Ethafeni Clinic in Tembisa on Thursday during the launch of the revised Contraceptive and Fertility Planning Policy and Service Delivery Guidelines.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Motsoaledi said family planning and the use of contraceptives had a wide range of benefits.
He reminded those gathered at the clinic that the National Development Plan asked all South Africans to work together to reduce the burden of disease, in particular the maternal and child mortality.
"Our Contraceptive and Fertility Planning Policy and guidelines are rooted in that," Minister Motsoaledi said.
A national team has been set up to visit all hospitals, both public and private, to collect data about women who died as a result of pregnancy. "From this committee, we know there are one million women falling pregnant in South Africa per year, out of these 8% are girls below the age of 18."
He said these minors were giving birth to 80 000 unplanned babies annually. "They contribute to 36% of all maternal deaths, because they are too young to fall pregnant. They easily die ... due to issues like hypertension."
However, the minister pointed out that the new device was not only targeted towards young girls, but married women, who are advised by their doctors not to fall pregnant again, following previous pregnancy-related complications.
Once inserted, the device is effective for three years. "You no longer have to go to the hospital every three months, you'll now go after three years. But if you want to have a baby before three years, you just come and ask us to remove it," said Minister Motsoaledi.
He said 2000 nurses had thus far been trained on how to insert the device which will be available in all public hospitals, free of charge, by June. By the time it is rolled out, 4000 nurses would have been trained.
Ntulikazi Mbatha, aged 24 from Tembisa, who was one of the first recipients of the new device said she was happy that there were no side effects. unlike the injection, which she said, had increased her appetite and added to weight gain.
"The most exciting part is that I won't default or have to go the clinic every three months - my next visit to the clinic will be 2016.
"With the device I can plan my future properly and I think it would be good for teenagers to use it as well so that they can finish their studies," said Mbatha.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini described the device as liberating for women.
"This gives us an opportunity to respond to the challenges that we are facing. With this [device] our children will finish school and take care of families out of poverty ... its freedom for our children," said Minister Dlamini.
Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, said if young girls were prevented from falling pregnant they can remain in school and complete their studies. "We endorse this initiative and ... it will contribute to the economy of the country."
The United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Dr Julitta Onabanjo commended South Africa, especially Minister Motsoaledi, for championing the journey of health, nationally and globally.
"We are extremely happy to be collaborative in this endeavour and congratulate the South African Government for its commitment, investment and priority it has placed on the health of women and children," said Dr Onabanjo.
UNPFA has donated 5000 of the devices to the department.