Grim life of our kids

2014-07-04 00:00

WHILE research by the Human Sciences Research Council released recently paints a grim picture of the lives of children in the province, child advocacy groups say the lot of children in KwaZulu-Natal is improving.

Statistics relating to children’s lives and the hardships they face were presented at the “Zwakala — Be Heard” event hosted by the Children in Distress Network (Cindi) at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall yesterday.

The research was released three months ago.

Esther Mungai from Cindi said ­despite the picture painted by the research, compared with research in previous years, the province was moving in the right direction, although not at a fast enough pace.

Among the shocking statistics, it was revealed that two out of every 10 children in KwaZulu-Natal suffers from hunger. In this context, hunger is defined as not having eaten for a day — this is despite many households accessing child and social grants.

Two out of every 10 children in KwaZulu-Natal still experience corporal punishment higher than the national average.

The national statistics reveal that more than 11,5 million of the 19 million children live in poverty. And 10,3 million children rely on government grants and one million of those children who qualify for such grants are not receiving them.

There are also approximately four million orphans and — noting that the under five-year-old mortality rate has not changed since the nineties — 75 000 children are dying before their fifth birthday.

Less than 60% of the children needing antiretroviral therapy are receiving it and only 43% of the children under the age of five are exposed to early childhood development programmes.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 25% of the province’s 4,5 million children are HIV positive.

The research by the council in 2010 showed that KwaZulu-Natal had about 25 602 households that were child headed. The latest statistics were not immediately available.

Mungai said the statistics were actually an improvement from the previous years.

“As a province, we are moving in the right direction, although we are not moving as fast as we should be because as far as I am concerned, no child should go to bed hungry.”

She said there were encouraging signs, including the HIV mother to child transmission rate, which had ­declined by two percent, and that school enrolment had increased up to 98% across the province.

She, however, raised concerns about general public behaviour, saying people were engaging in more risky sexual ­behaviour.

“There is less condom use and less knowledge about infections. There are questions that are asked about infections and people showed less knowledge on that.”

Irene Dugmore, the project Manager at Msunduzi Innovation and Development Institute, said she would not comment of the statistics but praised the “Zwakala — Be Heard” campaign.

“It highlights the issues around children and draws attention to how ­vulnerable they feel.”

The campaign by Cindi and their affiliates encourages child participation aimed at ensuring children’s voices are heard, and attention is drawn to the plight they face in their homes and their community.

Their session yesterday was attended by different stakeholders from child care organisations, law enforcement agencies, and a number of children who performed poetry and plays as part of entertainment and education.

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