A horrific number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. The most gruesome relate to murder, abuse or neglect. Almost 900 children were murdered in South Africa from 2015 to 2016, according to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).
In 2016, the United Nations ranked South Africa among the world’s 10 most violent nations. According to police figures, each year 800 to 900 children are murdered in South Africa, a nation of over 54 million people.
As of June 2017, in the Western Cape alone, 22 girl children were killed. The frustration is that our children are not safe in their community any more. This is very painful.
The killings of children have caught the attention of the President, Jacob Zuma, who in May 2017 visited the home of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters. Her death sent shivers of cold in the hearts of those that heard it as she was raped and murdered by a family friend and a tenant.
Besides the gruesome murder of children by community members, some of cruelty to children are committed by those the children have been entrusted to. Some women hide their pregnancies and dump their babies soon after birth. While some mothers simply abandon their children, and are not worried about what happens to them.
Other types of horrific murders of children have from time to time shocked the conscience of the nation, sometimes leading to social actions and protests. Yet, as soon as the initial shock from those individual incidents wears off, the problem will be largely shunned aside.
Many causes of death involving young children can be preventable.
Young children are most likely to be killed by someone known and often close to them. Although the killing of a child due to abuse is not the result of a single factor, there are often early warning signs that can alert a family or parent.
As a society we should be creating an enabling environment where children are nurtured and cared for in a safe and secure homes and communities that promote child wellbeing across all dimensions. Yet, we are failing to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
It is imperative that we all accept responsibility to care for children, as children are unable to speak up for themselves. Communities should be taking the responsibility to report cases when they suspect a family is in crisis or a child is in need of care and protection.
A culture of active, responsible citizenship is indispensable to building a functional society that cares for its most vulnerable members.
Saving the lives of children is not only the responsibility of the police, social workers, or any other professional. We all can make a difference. It starts by changing the way we relate with children and by making the protection of children a priority. We all need to make a conscious effort each day and ask ourselves, what can I do to save a child’s life today?
CWSA is the largest non-government, child protection organization in South Africa. CWSA is an umbrella body with a National Office and nine Provincial Offices, and represents 164 child welfare organizations across the provinces. At 94 years, CWSA leads in the achievement of a safe and caring environment for all children in South Africa through advocacy, research, capacity building and social mobilisation for action to protect children.