Also speaking the launch Trevor Manual, Minister in the Presidency responsible for the National Planning Commission said: ‘€œChildren who grow up in poorer households are not only deprived of food, they are deprived of nutrition that affects their general health, of the ability to concentrate at school, of the ability to excel at sport.’€ Manuel was explaining the far-reaching effects of poverty on children. ‘€œHaving faced these obstacles in childhood, the child grows up into an adult who lives in poverty, and the cycle continue ‘€“ this cycle must be broken.’€

South Africa has some of the highest level of inequality in the world. This is evident in the fact that the poorest 10 percent of people in the country receive less than one percent of the national income, while the richest 10 percent receive more than half (57 percent).

The Child Gauge reports that many children suffer as a result of this inequality and children in the poorest 20 percent of the population face the greatest challenges. Some of the key findings of the report are:

–               67 percent of children lived in rural areas, and 37 percent didn’€™t have adequate housing. 31 percent live in overcrowded households.

–               54 percent of children don’€™t have adequate access to water, and 46 percent live in conditions with inadequate sanitation. 23 percent of children have no access to electricity.

–               21 percent of children have to travel far to get to school and 46 percent experienced delayed progress at school.

–               26 percent of children experience hunger and 87 out of every 1  000 children die at birth.

The report also found that racial disparities persist ‘€“ two-thirds (67 percent) of African children live below the poverty line, compared to only two percent of White children.

Children living in former homelands remain the most deprived and nearly half of them lived where there is limited access to services and economic opportunities.

Hall points out that children in rural areas are twice as likely to be living with neither parent than those in urban centres: “Children’s care arrangements are fluid, partly because parents seek economic opportunities in urban areas while drawing on the support of family to care for children staying behind.”

There are also high levels of inequality within the urban child population. Those in informal settlements are especially exposed to risks associated with city life, such as overcrowded households, crime and a lack of affordable and safe child care facilities.

The Child Support Grant, which now reaches more than 11 million children, is associated with increased school attendance, and better nutrition. But Ingrid Woolard from UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) says it is not reaching many children before their first birthday – when nutritional support is most critical – because of difficulties in accessing birth certificates and identity documents.

Investing in the first two years of a child’s life gives children a good start in life and offers good economic returns, according to Linda Biersteker of the Early Learning Resource Unit. “Yet services are failing to reach the very young, those with disabilities, and those in poor households who cannot afford to attend an ECD centre.”

Manuel closed with the remark: ‘€œNow that we know, what are we going to do about it?’€

The seventh issue of the South African Child Gauge is published by the CI, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and SALDRU.