More than 1018 South African children were murdered in 2009, but the figure could be higher, according to a study by the Medical Research Council (MRC) on child murders.
“As a nation we are actually failing our children if we do not look at how to prevent these deaths,” Dr Shanaaz Mathews, a researcher at MRC, said on Wednesday.
The report indicated that policies and practices in relation to the protection of children were having little effect in keeping children safe in their homes and communities.
Mathews said children had all the constitutional protection possible in South Africa.
Nearly half of the murder cases recorded in the study, more than 44 percent, were the result of child abuse and neglect.
More than a third, 35 percent, of child abuse were because of abandonment within the first week after birth.
The study found that almost three quarters of these cases occurred among children younger than four. In this age group, 54.5
percent of cases involved girls.
In all the older age groups, significantly more of the victims were also girls.
Mathews said the study showed child murders had a distinct age and gender pattern, which had important implications for prevention and intervention strategies.
The study highlighted abandoned babies, fatal child abuse and interpersonal violence affecting mostly teenage boys.
“Abuse most likely is not a once-off incident, but related to a pattern of behaviour,” the report found.
The study revealed excessive rates of teenage male murders, with these deaths related to the use of weapons in the context of interpersonal violence.
It also showed that children were mostly killed by a known person who was not related, which was most common for boys.
The second-most frequent perpetrator group involved female parents - nearly half of all girl homicides were perpetrated by mothers.
Mathews said South Africa had progressive legislation around abortion and that contraception services were readily available in communities.
“Why are women abandoning babies?” she asked.
South Africa needed a friendlier adoption service.
“If there is an unwanted baby, women must know what their choices are in terms of adoption.” - Sapa