Society urged to play bigger role in protecting children

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pretoria - As South Africa observes Child Protection Week, government has reiterated calls for communities to play a bigger role in protecting the most vulnerable in society.

"In the spirit of Child Protection Week and of upholding the rights of children, government believes that protecting children and creating a safe and secure environment is everyone's responsibility and is achievable," said the Social Development Department in a statement.

It strongly condemned acts of child abandonment and abuse, and appealed to South Africans to reignite the spirit of Ubuntu that makes it possible for the nation to rally behind any cause, especially one as crucial as the safeguarding of the country's children.

"The well-being of children depends on functional, nurturing and protective families and communities that are able to meet their children's basic needs," added the department.

It noted recent media reports of child abandonment.

Yesterday, the body of a new-born baby was dumped in a storm water drain in Marabastad, Pretoria. Last month, a woman abandoned her one-day-old baby on a house doorstep in Zola, Soweto. The child was taken to a doctor for treatment and later taken to a place of safety.

According to a report released in 2010 by Child Welfare South Africa, more than 2 000 children are abandoned annually in South Africa.

The organisation revealed that mothers, particularly economic migrants and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, were abandoning their children in big numbers at hospitals after birth.

The theme of this year's Child Protection Week, "Working Together to Protect Children", shows that parents, society and government can work together to ensure that the rights of children to welfare and safety are not violated.

While acknowledging that socio-economic hardships and challenges can result in unsafe and hostile environments for children, the department said government programmes have been put in place to ensure children's basic rights to food, education, shelter, healthcare, family or alternative care as well as protection from abuse.

"Strengthening the mechanisms of coordination between all sectors and spheres remains a national priority to fast-track the roll-out of programmes and delivery of services for children, as provided for in the legislative instruments of children's rights," it said.

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