More than 6-million children starving in SA - Child Gauge report

20 November 2018 - 14:23
By Iavan Pijoos
Millions of children do not get the minimum nutrition needed to survive and thrive.
Image: 123RF/fesenko Millions of children do not get the minimum nutrition needed to survive and thrive.

More than 6-million children in South Africa live below the food poverty line with many families failing to provide the minimum nutrition needed to survive and thrive.

This was revealed in the South African Child Gauge 2018 report on Tuesday.

The annual report is published by the Children’s Institute (CI) at the University of Cape Town, alongside the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development, University of the Witwatersrand, UNICEF South Africa and the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation.

This year marked the 13th Child Gauge report, which focused on children at the interface of families and the state. It looked at areas of effective collaboration as well as contestation or tension between families and the state.

"In general, the state recognises the diversity and multigenerational nature of many families, but in practice different departments have divergent views of what a family is (or should be) and who is assumed to bear responsibility for children," said Katharine Hall, senior researcher at CI and lead editor of the report.

This was just one of many challenges families faced.

According to the report, families and household arrangements were "dynamic, responding to social, economic and political factors".

The report found that extended family households accounted for 36% of all households, followed by single-person households (22%) – a household form that is increasing as more adults migrate to cities in search of work.

Many migrant adults leave children behind, in the care of family.

Only 25% of children live in nuclear families, while 62% live in extended family arrangements. More than 7-million children live in households headed by a grandparent or great-grandparent.

"What the surveys cannot see is the extent to which families are stretched, with members spread across different households.

"Many absent parents see their children regularly and help to support them financially, even when they live elsewhere," said Zitha Mokomane, an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Pretoria.

The different household dynamics made it challenging for the state to target services and benefits for children or their caregivers.

The report found that the child support grant, which was designed to follow the child, became difficult to achieve when administrative systems struggled to keep up with their movement and changing care arrangements.

Despite parents, guardians and caregivers having the primary responsibility to inform children about their rights, the state was the duty bearer.

The state must also provide families with the necessary protection and assistance in order to for them to fully assume their responsibilities.

"Given the large number of children in families who are too poor to provide even the basic entitlements to shelter, adequate nutrition, and other children’s rights, this is a huge responsibility for the state," the report read.