Seventeen children have been treated for gunshot injuries at Red Cross Children’s Hospital since the start of the year, while over 250 others have been treated for incidents involving violence, abuse or neglect.
The numbers and severity of cases have increased over the past 25 years, hospital spokesperson Dwayne Evans said in a statement on Wednesday, as Child Protection Week is acknowledged.
A total of 273 children were treated between January and May, after suffering various forms of violence.
"At [Red Cross Hospital], we see children who have been shot, beaten, burnt, neglected and sexually abused, with many children experiencing more than one type of abuse. Children experience violence in places where they should feel safe to play and learn, such as homes, schools and playgrounds," Evans said.
In most cases, the perpetrator is someone the child knows and trusts. The assailant, however, was not always a man, Evans said.
"Boys are equally victims. There is a near 50% split between boys and girls presenting with abuse, violence and neglect. According to the 2016 Optimus National Prevalence Study, 1 in 3 boys and girls have experienced sexual abuse, yet only one third of these young victims ask for help with boys being less likely to do so."
According to the hospital, over the past five months, it has also seen 88 cases of physical abuse, 66 of neglect, 45 of sexual abuse, 22 of burns, 18 for dog bites, 11 of a child being at risk, and six of abandonment.
"The effects of violence, neglect and abuse against children can last a lifetime. Girls tend to internalise the violence and experience depression and anxiety, which increases their risk of further victimisation, while boys [tend to] externalise their experience through increased risk taking and aggressive behaviour," Evans said.
"Children also learn from watching the adults around them, and children who witness domestic violence are more likely to become neglectful or abusive parents. It is, therefore, vital to intervene early to break the intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse."
Among the cases referred to the hospital is that of a 5-year-old boy from Bonteheuwel who was shot five times in March. He survived, News24 previously reported.
He and a friend had been playing in the front yard of his home when they were caught in suspected gang-related crossfire.
His friend also suffered a flesh wound to her leg.
In January, a six-year-old girl was hit in a drive-by shooting in Athlone. A man was killed and two adults were injured, News24 reported at the time.
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