State of a South African child in the spotlight on World Children’s Day

As countries around the world mark Children’s Day, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, alongside Deloitte, have shone a spotlight on the numerous challenges affecting South African children and proposed interventions to help tackle the issue.

The organisations released the State of the South African Child report on Monday to coincide with the international holiday.

The report comes seven years after the launch of the state of the South African child initiative which had the “goal of developing and deploying interventions to effect real change for the children of South Africa”, according to the report.

“At the time, five priorities were identified that were aligned to the challenges faced by children and though some progress has been made, a multisectoral approach remains essential to drive meaningful impact. The fund continues to be committed to uplifting the lives of children and the 2022-2027 strategy highlights this, serving as a framework to fast-track and implement change in the lives of South African children.

“Deloitte and the fund have chosen to reignite the partnership and the initiative to reflect on the past seven years, understanding the progress made, and the challenges still present.”

In it, the report explores the five challenges currently affecting the growth and development of children and the call to action for each one.

They are: child poverty, child health and nutrition, education, housing and household, as well as child safety.

The report looked at how child poverty is measured, the situation on the ground and the impact of Covid-19. 

It found that the “pandemic has had a profound impact on poverty in children in South Africa, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and creating new challenges”.

The call to action here included making child poverty a national priority, strengthening and expanding social protection programmes, as well as improving access to quality education among other initiatives.

Turning to health and nutrition, the report look at several key areas, including child mortality and nutrition, access to healthcare, the impact of Covid-19 and mental health.

Here it found that “despite SA providing free healthcare for children since 1994, there are still large socioeconomic inequalities that have led to adverse health and nutritional outcomes for millions of children”.

In its call to action within this category, the report highlighted the need to invest in strengthening primary healthcare services, the expansion and maintenance of the current mobile clinics, as well as increased access to mental health services for children among other measures.

Within education, the report placed particular focus on early childhood development (ECD) and noted that: “the quality of early education received by South African children is highly compromised by the quality of teachers and under-resourced facilities.

“Rural areas often do not have formal ECD centres, which then require homes and communities to be enabled to provide children with the base they need,” it said.

Here it called for the prioritising of ECD initiatives, promotion of innovative teaching methods, as well as encouragement of “active involvement of parents, guardians and communities in supporting children’s education”.

The report also looked at housing and households, and within it the housing conditions children are exposed to on a daily basis. Here it looked at informal and traditional housing, overcrowding and the composition of the household structure.

Here it noted that: “neglect, violence, abandonment, shame, inconsistency, poor communication, substance abuse and fear are characteristics of a dysfunctional home environment.

“A healthy family can have one or more of these characteristics, but a dysfunctional family is one that fails to provide for many of their children’s physical and emotional needs.”

Proposals made here include upgrading informal dwellings, expanding affordable housing, empowering communities and advocating for further funding and resources.

Within child safety, the report honed in on violence against children (VAC) at school and at home. 

It noted that “South African family structures embody unique features that may be fertile ground for VAC. The types of violence experienced at home are similar to the violence experienced at school and include all forms of abuse, such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse as well as neglect”.

Its proposed call to action included: advocating for comprehensive legislation and policies, increasing the availability and accessibility of specialised support services for child victims of violence and advocating for an accountable justice system.

The report concluded by calling for a “unified call to action” on the five challenges facing children.

“By embracing this unified call to action, we can work towards a society where every child in South Africa thrives, regardless of their circumstances,” it said.

Platform: The Herald Live

Link: https://www.heraldlive.co.za/amp/news/2023-11-21-state-of-a-south-african-child-in-the-spotlight-on-world-childrens-day/