thula baba box

The Thula Baba Box is a survival kit for low-income mothers of newborn babies in South Africa. It is a plastic box that contains essential items such as clothes, a blanket, nappies, health products and basic toys. The box itself can also be used as a bath or safe storage space.

The purpose of the box is to improve certain health outcomes for mothers and babies, while also lowering the cost of raising a baby - both for families and for the government. This is achieved by

  • offering the box as an incentive to change the behaviour of mothers,
  • mothers using the contents of the box, and
  • empowering parents with information delivered via the box

The baby box idea originated in Finland in 1938 as a way to combat high infant mortality rates.  The Thula Baba Box is a South African version of the Finnish baby box, designed to address the needs of South African parents and babies and to serve as a reward to incentivise responsible health-seeking behaviour by mothers during pregnancy. It was elected as an official Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 project.

During 2015, an academic research study was conducted by the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University. This was done in partnership with the Western Cape Government Department of Health and funding was provided by the J-PAL Africa Incubation Fund, Broadreach Healthcare and Ackermans. Preliminary results of the study are very encouraging specifically in terms of health outcomes, with full results expected to be published during mid-2016.

The founders* of the Thula Baba Box are currently formalising a partnership with a Cape Town non-profit organisation to assist with further development and roll-out of the concept.

*Frans de Villiers, a marketing executive with extensive CSI experience, and Ernst Hertzog from Action Hero Ventures.

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