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Sat May 23 13:55:46 SAST 2015

SA children's misery

GRAEME HOSKEN | 21 May, 2012 00:06

Image by: LEBOHANG MASHILOANE

A damning United Nations report has highlighted horrific conditions under which many of South Africa's children are forced to live.

The Unicef report - yet to be released - offers detailed insight into unnecessary deaths and devastating living conditions of SA's children and demands that government take immediate action.

With 11.5million of the country's 19 million children living in poverty - and 7million living in 20% of the poorest households - the report shows poor children are 17 times more likely to experience hunger and three times less likely to complete school than children from wealthier backgrounds.

The report, titled "A Programme of Cooperation between government and Unicef for 2013 to 2017", shows just how far South Africa needs to travel to ensure the most of services - the homes of 1.4million children rely on streams for drinking water, 1.5million children live in houses with no flushing toilets and 1.7million live in shacks.

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries, said Unicef's South African representative, Aida Girma.

"The government must increase its understanding of inequity and its causes or lose the chid rights battle. The major problem is the government's lack of accountability and priorities.

"Everyone claims to be accountable, but in the end no one is . While the government is open to ideas, it has no clear strategy for the rural or urban poor. Unless there is immediate focus on challenges. it is doubtful that poverty will be eradicated."

Girma called for an urgent focus on children's needs as two-thirds of child deaths were preventable, proper health protocols were not followed.

About 10.3 million children depend on the government's monthly R270 child support grant. One million children who are eligible for grants do not receive them.

Four out of 10 children live in homes where no one is employed. In cases of dire poverty, this figure increases to seven in 10 children.

But the picture becomes even bleaker where the health, education and security of South Africa's young are concerned.

Without "drastic" intervention, South Africa will not achieve its 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals of eradicating child and mother mortality and malnutrition - "all of which [are] preventable".

There are more than 5 million people living with HIV. There are 330,000 children living with HIV.

HIV/Aids is the biggest killer of the country's children, according to Girma.

"Forty percent die from the pandemic annually. There are 4million orphans, with 2million orphaned by Aids. Action is needed now.

"South Africa accounts for 28% of the world's TB-HIV co-infection rate, with 400000 South Africans affected. Children account for nearly 25% of all new tuberculosis cases.

"While the government has good legal frameworks protecting children's rights and has progressed in delivering services to children, its capacity to implement policies are virtually non-existent.

"There are no proper databases, with millions of children falling through the gaps and remaining trapped in poverty. Since 2003, the Health Department has not done a demographic and health survey."

Women, Children and People with Disabilities Ministry spokesman Cornelius Monama, said it was urgently reviewing a national action plan for children .

"The challenges facing our children are immense. We are working on child survival programmes and are implementing health, education, housing and safety monitoring and intervention strategies ensuring the delivery of services and protection of children."

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