Over three million SA children live in poverty
Over three million children under the age of six in South Africa live in poverty.This is according to the South African Early Childhood Review – an annual publication providing data‚ analysis and commentary on over 40 statistical indicators measuring the progress of Early Childhood Development (ECD) service delivery across multiple government departments‚ including Health‚ Social Development and Education.The review‚ the first its kind in South Africa‚ was launched on Thursday in JohannesburgAccording to its findings‚ children under six years of age are not receiving the crucial services they need during the most important period of their development.Provinces with the highest rates of child poverty are the Eastern Cape‚ KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.The review notes that children’s development – including physical‚ cognitive and emotional development – is compromised because they are not receiving the services and care they need.According to the review‚ children who live below the food poverty line are not getting enough food to get their 2‚000 calorie a day nutrition they need.“Shortfalls in early childhood development are difficult to correct as time goes by. These children are always playing catch up and the education gap between them and their peers widens over time‚” says Sonja Giese‚ executive director of Ilifa Labantwana‚ an NGO working to promote ECD‚ and co-author of the review.“We have seen some improvements over the last decade. In 2003‚ for example‚ almost 80% of South Africa’s youngest children lived in poverty‚” says Giese. “Although 63% is an improvement‚ this number is still way too high. And while we tend to think in terms of income‚ there are multiple forms of deprivation for children living in poverty‚ including poor nutrition‚ poor access to health care‚ higher rates of maternal depression which impact the quality of their earliest relationships and very limited exposure to quality early learning.”A child’s development in the first six years of their life is‚ according to Giese‚ of crucial importance as the brain is growing at its fastest pace because‚ “the impact of the environment and care received during this time has a life-long impact on education and health; income earning potential; and even propensity for violent and risky behaviour”.