Child programmes vital for equality

SOUTH Africa's high rate of inequality will persist into the next generation unless the government focuses on programmes aimed at the development of children.

This is according to this year's South African Child Gauge released yesterday.

Published by the University of Cape Town-based Children Institute in partnership with the United Children's Fund, the initiative reviews the developmental situation of the country's children.

The report shows that while child poverty is decreasing, rising inequality affects children's survival and future.

"While child poverty is decreasing, income inequality is rising, and this affects children's survival, development and life trajectories. It also means that the high rates of inequalities are likely to persist into the next generation," said Katharine Hall, a senior researcher at the Children's Institute.

The report also reveals that while the social grants reach 11million children and are associated with increased school attendance, as well as better education, they do not reach many children before their first birthday when nutritional support is most critical.

"Investing in the first two years of a child's life gives children a good start in life and offers good economic returns. Yet services are failing to reach the very young, those with disabilities and those in poor households who cannot afford to attend early child development centres," said Linda Biersteker of the Early Learning Resource Unit.

The most deprived are children living in former homeland areas, especially in Easten Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Also more exposed to such deprivations are children living in informal settlements, where they are exposed to risk factors like overcrowding and crime.

Comparing children living in the poorest 20% of households with those living in 20% of the richest households, the report reveals that 67% of the children from poor households live in rural areas compared with only 10% of rich households; while 54% of the children from poor households have inadequate water services compared to 3% from rich households.

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