The South African author and doctor Kopano Matlwa got a shoutout from Bill Gates. Her work with undernourished children in South Africa was featured in the American billionaire and philanthropist’s “Heroes in the Field” series, which seeks to highlight the work of ordinary people doing their bit to help humanity. “One in four children under five in South Africa is stunted,” Matlwa revealed in the video. It is an unfortunate figure for an upper-middle-income country like South Africa, she said.
In 2018, Matlwa was appointed Executive Director of Grow Great, a campaign aimed at mobilizing South Africa towards achieving a generation free from stunting by 2030. The initiative runs two programs: Flourish, which provides support for new and expectant mothers, and Champions for Children, a committee of health workers providing households with intervention that support maternal and toddler nutrition.
In a mini-profile published on his blog, Bill Gates highlighted the achievements of Grow Great. Roughly one year since its founding, the organization has witnessed positive trends in pre- and post-natal care. Its scope is as well extended to issues of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Melinda and I have met many stunted children in our travels. It’s heartbreaking and utterly preventable. Dr. @kopanomabaso is leading an incredible effort to eliminate child stunting from South Africa over the next decade. https://t.co/POaKqkLowv
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) February 25, 2020
1 in 4 children under five in South Africa are stunted. The @GrowGreatZA Campaign is empowering new and pregnant moms to keep their children healthy. Here’s why I’m optimistic that they can make an impact: https://t.co/a97kqWCycu pic.twitter.com/PLGOXZILW5
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) February 26, 2020
Kopano Matlwa is the author of three books. Her debut novel Coconut was published in 2007 at the age of 21, while she was still in medical school, and was recently optioned by the South African production company KIWI Films. Her other novels are Spilt Milk (2010) and Period Pain (2017).
She is an elected board member of Health Systems Global, the world’s first international society dedicated to health systems’ strengthening and knowledge translation. She is the founder of Transitions Foundation, an organization that seeks to help South Africa’s youth progress to personal fulfillment through education. In 2016, she was named one of South Africa’ 21 Icons, a project which celebrates young South African talent in honor of Nelson Mandela.
Bill Gates’ “Heroes in the Field” has previously featured the Congolese doctor and Nobel Prize laureate Denis Mukwege, the former Rwandan health minister and reformer Agnes Binagwaho, and the Nigerian doctor and Ebola survivor Adaora Okoli.