Kids suf­fer at hands of a cruel so­ci­ety

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - KIERAN LEGG

THERE are at least 124 vi­o­lent crimes com­mit­ted against chil­dren ev­ery day in South Africa.

And those are just the in­ci­dents re­ported to the po­lice. It’s a statis­tic that has set the tone for the 2014 South African Child Gauge, an an­nual re­port re­leased in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day.

This year, the fo­cus is on the cul­ture of vi­o­lence and how to break the seem­ingly un­end­ing cy­cle of abuse.

Ac­cord­ing to the UCT Chil­dren’s In­sti­tute, the au­thors of the com­pre­hen­sive study, crime against chil­dren is ram­pant. Pop­u­la­tion-based preva­lence stud­ies showed that more than half of the coun­try’s chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cal vi­o­lence at the hands of a teacher, care­giver or rel­a­tive.

The abuse can vary across dif­fer­ent life stages: in­fan­ti­cide or aban­don­ment be­tween birth to one year, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse and ne­glect across the life span, and dat­ing and in­ter­per­sonal vi­o­lence among men peak­ing in the teenage years.

The in­sti­tute’s di­rec­tor, Shanaaz Mathews, said abuse ham­pered chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ment, learn­ing abil­ity, self­es­teem and emo­tional se­cu­rity and could have long-term con­se­quences for their em­ploy­ment prospects and life ex­pectancy.

The first so­lu­tion out­lined in the re­port is the need for preven­tion pro­grammes. The pro­grammes need to be de­signed to work in lo­cal set­tings, ad­justed for dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­hoods and be in­te­grated into ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture such as the health-care sys­tem.

The hefty re­port delves into other so­lu­tions, but the com­mis­sion­ing ed­i­tor, Lori Lake, said the short an­swer to the is­sue of vi­o­lence against chil­dren was that gov­ern­ment spend­ing needed to shift from pri­ori­tis­ing re­ac­tive pro­tec­tion ser­vices and in­crease fund­ing to preven­tion and early in­ter­ven­tion pro­grammes.

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