Ac­tivist de­tails ‘hor­ren­dous’ case of ne­glect

Saturday Star - - Front Page - KASHIEFA AJAM AND KAR­ISHMA DIPA

FOR weeks or even pos­si­bly longer, three mi­nor Gaut­eng chil­dren have had to en­dure one of the worst cases of child ne­glect that a child ac­tivist has ever seen.

The young­sters, aged seven, nine and 11 from Ven­ter­spos in We­stonaria, were forced to eat rot­ten food in­fested with mag­gots, had not bathed for some time, had lice and fleas in their hair and on their beds.

“This was one of the most hor­ren­dous cases,” said Pixie Pink, whose so­cial me­dia post de­tail­ing the hor­rific case of child ne­glect has since gone vi­ral.

“They don’t even have tooth­brushes, tooth­paste or even toi­let pa­per and have to wipe them­selves with their hands when they go to the bath­room.”

As South Africa com­mem­o­rated World Food Day yes­ter­day, Pink told The Sat­ur­day Star this week that she was en­raged with the dire cir­cum­stances of the chil­dren, who rely mainly on dona­tions from the iso­lated com­mu­nity to eat.

“This is not just a poverty prob­lem, it’s child ne­glect at its best,” she in­sisted.

Pink is de­mand­ing that the young­sters be re­moved from the house and that long-term in­ter­ven­tion from the po­lice and child wel­fare is des­per­ately needed.

“When I got to the house, the sit­u­a­tion was so dire that I had im­me­di­ate proof for them to be re­moved from the premises and their mother’s cus­tody.

“I saw the state they were in and also the state of the house. They don’t even have a fridge, so all their food has gone off.”

Pink ex­plained that the chil­dren’s 35-year-old mother was un­em­ployed and their 18-year-old brother also had no source of in­come.

“He left school when he was 14 be­cause he said he had anger is­sues, and now he also doesn’t work be­cause he can barely read or write.”

Pink added that the three mi­nors were also not in school and doubted they had even at­tended a sin­gle class this whole year.

“Ev­ery child has a con­sti­tu­tional right to an ed­u­ca­tion but with­out one, these chil­dren will not even be able to beg one day be­cause they won’t be able to write on a card­board box.”

Pink, who is an ac­tivist against women and child abuse, took to so­cial me­dia last month to de­tail the fam­ily’s hor­rific liv­ing con­di­tions.

In the Face­book post, she added that the mother sold their fridge and all their food is be­ing stored in the cup­board, most of which has gone rot­ten.

“The dogs had more food than the chil­dren and the mother did not try to clean the house.”

The post has since gone vi­ral with scores of food and other house­hold items be­ing do­nated to the fam­ily.

Also cut­ting into fam­ily in­comes is the ris­ing cost of elec­tric­ity and trans­porta­tion. The re­search found that women, on av­er­age, moved between four and five shops while shop­ping so as to find the cheap­est goods.

Women were also more likely to sac­ri­fice and go with­out, so they can feed their fam­i­lies. The Covid-19 cri­sis also meant that money had to be spent on hy­giene prod­ucts.

Manakhe Chiya, a data col­lec­tor for the PMEJD, said that the lock­down had left peo­ple frus­trated. “And they are an­gry, and the prob­lem they say is who is go­ing to lis­ten to them,” she said.

With less money, the con­cern is that fam­i­lies are not get­ting enough nu­tri­tious food, which could im­pact their health. “Our so­cial grants that are so crit­i­cally im­por­tant are also so in­ad­e­quate,” said Smith.

On Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa told Par­lia­ment that the gov­ern­ment would be con­tin­u­ing with the spe­cial Covid-19 re­lief grant of R350 a month for three more months.

Fur­ther re­search has shown that the spe­cial grant, though con­sid­ered by many to be in­ad­e­quate, had been im­por­tant in stop­ping hunger.

The pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor of the PMEJD, Mer­wyn Abra­hams, said a study by the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town had found a drop of 27% of those go­ing hun­gry in the Western Cape, af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of top-up grants.

“If the top-up grant was taken away, 27% would emerge again in terms of house­hold hunger and food in­se­cu­rity. And if you take into con­sid­er­a­tion the R293 in­crease in the food bas­ket, then over 30% of house­holds will be plunged into house­hold food in­se­cu­rity,” he ex­plained.

A Na­tional In­come Dy­nam­ics Study-coro­n­avirus Rapid Mo­bile Sur­vey con­ducted by Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity had found that 22% of re­spon­dents had re­ported that some­one in their house­hold had gone hun­gry in May and June. This fig­ure dropped to 16%, with child hunger drop­ping to 11%.

Ul­ti­mately, the re­searchers hope the House­hold Af­ford­abil­ity In­dex will be an early warn­ing sys­tem that will pro­vide in­sight into how the econ­omy is do­ing and its im­pact.

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THE ap­palling con­di­tions which three chil­dren lived in, in Ven­ter­spos.

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