There have been several vast improvements in the lives of South Africa’s children in recent years. Close to 90% of children now have access to electricity – up from 72% in 2003. About 12% of children live below the international poverty line of USD$ 1.25 a day, down from 43% in 2003.
But amid this
Similarly, more than a third (34%) of children still live in households where biofuels are used for cooking, heating or lighting. This increases their risk of poor health now and in future, particularly if they’re also living in overcrowded conditions.
These were some of the findings from the latest Child Gauge, a publication we have been releasing since 2005 to monitor South Africa’s progress towards
For the 2017 edition of the gauge, we concentrated on how South Africa is doing to improve children’s lives in relation to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There are 17 goals with more than 160 targets to end poverty, improve health, education, sanitation
Our overall evaluation is that South Africa has made significant progress with some targets. But it’s still lagging far behind with others.
Take for example the preventable deaths of newborns and children under the age of five. The number of babies dying within the first 28 days of life sits at 12 for every 1000 babies born. This is in line with the target linked to SDG three.
But for every 1000 children that are born, 37 still die before the age of five from preventable causes, including
There are still 12 years to go before the sustainable development goals are
A knock on effect
Poverty is the main underlying cause
Under-nutrition, in turn, leads to children eventually being stunted, which means they’re too short for their age. Stunting remains stubbornly high in South Africa, affecting 27% of children younger than five.
Stunting takes more than just a physical toll. It also compromises children’s capacity to learn, their long-term health and their employment prospects later in life. There are also inter-generational effects: women who are stunted are more likely to give birth to infants with low birth weight, who are then at risk of stunting.
Change must come
Tackling the challenges around poverty, under-nutrition, stunting
Ending stunting, for example, requires
Improving food security would need programmes that give pregnant women and young children improved access to diverse and nutritious foods. It would also require programmes that encourage and provide mothers with
In addition, parents and caregivers need family support, parenting programmes,
Various challenges and constraints stand in the way. These include lack of financial and human resources to implement the SDGs, as well as the capacity to monitor and evaluate the programmes that are put in place. South Africa is not alone in this: many developing countries face the same dilemma.
Fiscal constraints remain a big challenge, particularly for low-income countries, and for middle-income countries like South Africa where there are competing national interests.
Investing in children
It’s crucial for South Africa to invest more in early childhood development, particularly in education, health, nutrition, violence prevention, reading, and inclusive services.
Authors: Winnie Sambu and Lucy Jamieson, both from the University of Cape Town. Winnie Sambu, Research Officer at the Children's Institute, University of Cape Town and Lucy Jamieson, Senior Researcher at the Children's Institute, University of Cape Town. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.