Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Red Cross Children's Hospital fund-raising function, Stellenbosch

25 February 1996

Ladies and Gentlemen;
Friends and fellow South African.

The mention of the Red Cross Children's Hospital warms the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa and beyond our borders. They are the people whose children, relatives or friends have been cared for at the hospital. Its devoted and sophisticated care for severely ill children has made it a special place.

Our children embody our dearest hopes for a bright future in which the sufferings of the past will be dim memories.

That was also true for the South African Prisoners of War and Red Cross volunteers in the camps when they conceived the idea of building a Children's Hospital in memory of all those who suffered the ravages of World War II. For them, at one of the darkest and most destructive moments in history, this was the way to affirm humanity's capacity to build, to heal and to care.

Such was the power of that idea that ten years later, and with substantial contributions from ordinary people, the hospital was built.

And now it has become one of the most sought after institutions on the continent. It is known throughout the world as a centre of excellence for pioneering research and treatment of childhood diseases and as the premier centre of specialist paediatric training in Africa. Though located in Cape Town it has become a national and international resource, the only remaining dedicated children's hospital south of the Sahara.

It has been made what it is by dedicated staff motivated by that same love and hope which our children inspire in all of us.

Time and a chronic shortage of funds have however taken their toll on the buildings, infrastructure and equipment at Red Cross.

Democratic South Africa's commitment to making affordable health care more accessible to all makes the redevelopment and upgrading of the hospital's overloaded facilities even more urgent.

The initiative of the Children's Hospital Trust to raise redevelopment funds from business, the community and government is a shining example of the partnership on which our country's future depends. You have not sat back or thrown up your arms in despair at the challenge of having to raise R28 million. Instead you have become actively involved in our country's reconstruction and development.

The donations you have already received from business and the community show that, as with its foundation, the redevelopment of the Red Cross Children's Hospital is touching the hearts of our people. Some of you who are here today have already made substantial contributions to the fund-raising effort and we thank you on behalf of the Hospital Trust for your generosity.

I am encouraged as President of the ANC that members of the organisation in this area have also joined the efforts to bring success to this endeavour.

On the part of government the RDP, in recognition of the Hospital Trust's initiative, has decided to allocate R5 million towards the funds needed for the hospital's redevelopment. This will form part of the Department of Health's Clinic Upgrading Programme.

One of the first actions by South Africa's first democratic government, was the provision of free health care for pregnant women and young children. We did this because children are a priority in this country, and their health of supreme importance.

Let us all work together, government and the rest of society, for the good health of future generations. And may the Red Cross Children's Hospital become a reflection of our society's love for its children!

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website