South African children need community protection

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November 18, 2016
South African children need community protection

Nelson Mandela Children's Fund CEO Sibongile Mkhabela. CREDIT: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Between 2012 and 2013, at least 495,000 criminal cases against children were reported.

In the face of poverty, abuse and malnutrition, the strengthening of communities would go a long way in ensuring a safe and secure environment for children.

Violence against children had a long-term impact on the health, social and psychological development of a child, said  Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) CEO Sibongile Mkhabela on Friday.

Children were vulnerable, especially in poor communities. Informal housing areas, such as shack dwellings, where children did not have space in a home and had to go outside instead, contributed to their vulnerability and being unsafe.

“The conditions where a child cannot stay in the house and have to go outside because there’s lack of space, increases vulnerability, and we know that policing is not at its best in poor communities. These create an opportunity for the abuse of children,” Mkhabela said.

Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, was a big problem in the country, followed by physical assault.

According to a NMCF report, between 2012 and 2013, at least 495,000 criminal cases against children were reported. Fifty one percent of the cases were mainly sexual abuse complaints.

“Other forms of physical abuse are most common towards young children below the age of 14, in rural areas, among disabled children and in low income households,” read the report.

The report noted, however, that only one in nine sexual abuse cases were reported, indicating the severity of the problem.

Mkhabela said children needed safe and loving spaces in order to enjoy a good childhood.

“Getting rid of child abuse is not all that we want to achieve. What we want to achieve is safe spaces for children, where they can be able to think and trust themselves. These are our future human resources…so what are we doing to nurture them?,” asked Mkhabela.

“As much as we have problems, we have fantastic young people who are change agents themselves. We need to consult with young minds to give them space to create their world which is different from that of an adult. We need to listen to the youngsters.”

African News Agency

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