Four-year-old Iyapha Yamile was murdered and her body found in a plastic bag dumped near her aunt's house in Town Two Khayelitsha. Picture: Supplied

The rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters brings to 19 the number of children killed in the province since the beginning of the year.

Valdi van Reenen-le Roux, of The Trauma Centre, said: “This has to stop! How many more children have to die?” Her organisation is spearheading the call for a commission of inquiry into child murders in the province.

Van Reenen-Le Roux’s call has gained the support of other organisations, including the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Mosaic.

“Too many children are dying terrible deaths because of violence.

“Courtney’s body was found in a shallow grave. Her slaying occurred as the Lavender Hill and Tafelsig families and communities of murdered Rene Roman, 13, and Stacha Arendse, 11, were still reeling from the brutality of their deaths.”

Since the beginning of the year, the centre has provided trauma-bereavement counselling to 25 family members, 354 pupils and friends of deceased children.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila, said 12 child murder cases would be heard in the high court.

The calls for a commission of inquiry have been directed at Premier Helen Zille. In 2009, Zille was set to appoint a provincial Children’s Commissioner, but nothing came of it. Hugo van der Merwe of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said a commission would be a public acknowledgement of the scale of the problem.

“Often there is a public outcry, which dies down and is then rehashed when another incident occurs. We want to have a clear understanding of the trend of the killings, the locations, hot spots and look at causes. In this case, at the moment, we are too crisis driven We need to look at preventative measures,” he said.

Civil organisations are seeking an integrated approach from government departments, communities and parents to protect children.

Zarina Majied, advocacy manager at Mosaic, said the local education department needed to re-educate children on safety. “Growing up, children were taught not to talk to strangers, but now we have seen it’s not just strangers who commit these heinous acts, it’s also people whom they trust. Our children need to be made aware of what is happening.”

Majied said the Health Department too had a role to play. She questioned whether children visiting health facilities were being checked for signs of abuse.