Yesterday marked the start of National Child Protection Week, an annual campaign aimed at raising awareness about children’s issues such as abuse and neglect.
It is led by the department of Social Development and runs until June 4.
Officially launched at an event outside Langa in Cape Town yesterday, the theme was “Let us all Protect Children to Move South Africa Forward”.
The deputy director-general for social development, Connie Nxumalo, spoke at the event where she reiterated the need for raising children in safe environments.
“Communities need to rally around their own families to make sure that they are strong enough to protect their members including their children,” she said.
With the recent spate of attacks against children, there is a deeper need for awareness towards the safety of young children. Events such as the murder of three-year old Courtney Pieters sent shockwaves throughout the country.
“Outrage is not enough, we need collective action now to end this inhumanity that has become a routine, and to give children in our society the protection they deserve,” Child Welfare South Africa said of her death.
According to global humanitarian organisation World Vision South Africa, the current state of violence against South African children “should be declared a national disaster”.
“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,” said Paula Barnard, national director of World Vision South Africa.
A report which was conducted by the Children’s Institute “Out of Harm’s Way?” in 2016 estimates that up to 34% of the country’s children were the victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they reached the age of 18.
“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,” Barnard said.
According to a report conducted by Unicef South Africa in 2016, nearly a quarter of children in South Africa have been exposed to violence within their families and more than half of all reported crimes against children are sexual offences.