The African Regional Child Trauma Conference, which took place earlier this month at the Cape Town City Hall, saw several organisations formally adopt the Leaving No Child Behind: Ending Violence Against Children in Africa Charter, which seeks to “accelerate efforts towards ending violence and trauma” against children in Africa. The urgent need for the charter comes with growing concern around the welfare of children in Africa.
Approximately 37 000 children in the Western Cape have reportedly been removed from their homes and placed in childcare facilities due to abuse and negligence. Furthermore, according to a senior researcher at the Children’s Institute, South Africans need to urgently address the prevalence of violence against vulnerable youth.
“We don’t have enough facilities to care for all these children [and] we aren’t even beginning to scratch the surface in terms of the number of children who experience trauma,” said senior researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute, Lucy Jamieson.
Jamieson explained that in a long-term study conducted on the topic of youth exposure to violence in South Africa, the findings were disturbing.
“Six different types of violence were studied over a long-term period of several years…36 percent of children experienced ALL forms of violence studied while 70 percent experienced 5 or more forms of violence in the time they spent growing up,” she said.
Worryingly, South African statistics reflect a unique trend in crime and violence against children. This already concerning fact is exacerbated by another shocking statement made by Jamieson. She says that when it comes to violence against children, “everything is common” in South Africa.
“In this country, we have one baby-rape every three days…it doesn’t happen [as often] anywhere else. It has become routine here in South Africa and that tells you a lot about how severe and commonplace violence is.”
“When you think that a third of children experience sexual abuse and another third experience physical violence, the sad state of affairs is that everything is common. One in three children have experienced sexual abuse by the time they turn 18.”
Clinical Director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, Dr Shaheda Omar shared similar sentiments on the dire situation faced by South African youth.
“Indeed, the statistics are shocking and paint a very troubling picture,” said Omar.
“I think we are numbed by shocking crime statistics and that makes it easy to lose sight of the children behind the numbers…More than 51 percent of all reported rape cases over the past 4 years involve children. More than 3000 children in the same period have been murdered…enough is enough.”
“The very systems that are supposed to protect children are failing across the board.”