‘Violence against children in South Africa - a national disaster’

THE current state of violence against South African children should be declared a national disaster, said global humanitarian organisation World Vision South Africa at the beginning of this year’s National Child Protection Week.

The country is faced with horrific reports of violence against children daily, which at its current rate will snowball to impact many generations to come.

Paula Barnard, national director of World Vision South Africa, said: “Violence against our children has reached epidemic proportions and like any other disease, be it HIV/Aids or Ebola, it should be treated as a national disaster and remedied accordingly.

“As a collective group of humanitarian organisations, churches and the Department of Social Development worried about the shocking levels of violence against children, we simply can’t keep up with the investment required to reach children affected by violence.

“A recent National Dialogue on Violence Against Children, held by the Mandela Initiative and UCT’s Children’s Institute, also made it abundantly clear that the budget allocated by Treasury to the Department of Social Development for Child Protection Services is grossly inadequate — drastic steps need to be taken.”

SA’s ongoing violence against children paints a bleak picture and underscores the findings by the first national prevalence study conducted in 2016 and highlighted by the Children’s Institute Out of Harm’s Way? report,which estimates that up to 34% of the country’s children are victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they reach the age of 18.

The study further states that in the Western Cape and Mpumalanga alone, over half of the children reported a lifetime prevalence of physical abuse by caregivers, teachers or relatives.

Additionally, if violence is not stopped it can span generations, said the Children’s Institute Report.

“Violence is interlinked and cumulative in nature; children who experience or witness violence are at increased risk of revictimisation or perpetration later in life and when they become parents themselves they often lack the ability to bond with their own children and are more inclined to use violence.”

Furthermore, violence against children has a severe impact on SA’s economy. A report by Save the Children: Violence Unwrapped — The Social and Economic Burden of Violence Against Children in South Africa, says that the estimated economic value of disability-adjusted life years lost due to violence against children (including fatal and non-fatal) in 2015 totalled R202 billion. This accounted for 3,3% of SA’s GDP in 2015.

The study, however, stressed that the data underestimates the true situation in the country.

Barnard said: “If one considers all the statistics and current dire lack of resources, it is clear that declaring violence against children a national disaster is the only feasible solution.

“This is not a problem that is going to go away. We need political will, increased funds and personal commitment from government to start to address the impact of this social disease.”

- Supplied.

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