A child born in the last ten years will face a plethora of challenges in a world that seems to be dead set on self-destruction. Amongst others there is:
- Global warming and the associated risks of famine
- A pandemic that may very well result in permanently high health threats and increased social isolation
- Violent conflict all over the world, but currently very real in Ukraine and Palestine, which in turn leads to severe shortages of resources.
In view of this, it is hardly surprising that society may lose its focus on the very real suffering of children in South Africa now!
Unfortunately the level of violence against children in South Africa appears too disproportionately high.
This subject is explored in an article published on January 5 2018 in BMJ Global Health, titled “Violence against children in South Africa: the cost of inaction to society and the economy”. The authors are Hsiao C, Fry D, Ward CL, et al
The article states in its introduction the following: Globally, South African children experience disproportionally high levels of violence, and there is now mounting evidence on the magnitude of violence against children. South Africa’s estimated child homicide rate of 5.5 homicides per 100 000 children is more than twice the global average, and nearly half of all child homicides in South Africa were related to child abuse and neglect.
Violence, abuse and deprivation prevents children from living up to their potential.
To understand this one should be aware how violence, trauma and deprivation impacts a child’s development. Numerous studies have shown that the developing brain of a child undergoes physical changes as a result of trauma and abuse, which will impact negatively on a child’s development.
Quoting from the same article the following: “Such chronic stress and fear can have damaging effects on a myriad of outcomes, including mental health and coping mechanisms, which can range from depression to alcohol and drug abuse, health consequences such as heart disease and suicide, as well as impaired learning, socialisation and productivity.”
A child confronted by ongoing trauma and stress is at risk. Her/his chances of achievement and being independent and productive are drastically reduced. This will have a cost that future generations will have to bear.
Rather than being contributing members of society they are at risk of unemployment, poverty, ignorance, substance abuse and hopelessness.
The resilience of children is also a common truth. Given the chance of living in a safe place, with opportunity to heal, grow and develop, they will recover. The earlier they get that chance, the better their chances of recovery. Even better is if they can have access to the resources they need to flourish within their own families.
Our plea to the adults in South Africa is to not look away, but to face up to the painful reality of a child that needs you to do what you can do, today!
Abused, abandoned and neglected children have an immediate need. They grow and develop now. They cannot wait until the war is over or until the latest disease has been conquered.
With a child’s life, you have one chance only. See the children and help them now!
Hsiao C, Fry D, Ward CL, et al
Violence against children in South Africa: the cost of inaction to society and the economy
BMJ Global Health 2018;3:e000573.