Most of SA’s children in poverty

TWO thirds of children in South Africa are still living in poverty, a Human Rights Commission workshop on children’s rights heard today (March 24).

Poverty was one of the main problems facing children’s rights, and government departments need to become more efficient to improve on this, Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Minister Lulama Xingwana said in Johannesburg.

Departments such as education, health and transport had to work together to help children. “We need to look at budgets and make sure a budget is allocated in each department for these issues.” There were disabled children who needed transport, some children did not have access to education because they were too poor, and then there was HIV and Aids.

Xingwana said she and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had signed an agreement to ensure more women were tested for HIV/Aids before they fell pregnant, to decrease mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Deputy HRC chairwoman Pregs Govender said the Children’s Act needed funding and the government needed to find the money. The government needed to deal with poverty before it could look at the “whole picture”.

Xingwana said problems limiting children’s rights needed to be addressed.

“We acknowledge the historical challenges that still limit progress in attainment of these rights. It is therefore important that at various intervals we look at the totality of these rights, review progress and outline measures that have to be taken to address various challenges limiting the realisation of these rights.” Xingwana said poverty tended to affect more women, children and disabled people, especially in rural areas.

Children had the right to an adequate standard of living, basic health, childhood development and education, Xingwana said.

All these areas had been recognised and researched in a report released by the HRC and Unicef on “Equity in the Realisation of Children’s Rights in South Africa”.

Programmes to improve children’s rights would be developed based on this and other reports.

“South Africa has passed a number of pieces of legislation and policies that protect and promote the rights of children. Our country is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which encompasses the package of rights that need to be enjoyed by all children of the world.” A full realisation of rights of children could only succeed through collaboration between the government, civil society, United Nations agencies and other development partners.

Unicef country representative Aida Girma said the reason the report was highlighting equity and child rights was because of the growing disparity between rich and poor.

“We need to make sure that we look at all the data and see where children are being left behind. In the global push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we are leaving behind millions of the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised children,” she said.

The poorest of the poor were not receiving any benefits such as grants. This was either because they were not aware of them, they did not have the correct documentation, or did not have money for transport to get to where they could apply for them. “We need to make sure they become a priority,” Girma said.



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