Universal Children’s Day was celebrated on Tuesday, and a study into the well-being of the country’s children found that 6 million are living below the poverty line. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee/ ANA Archives.
Cape Town - Universal Children’s Day was celebrated on Tuesday, and a study into the well-being of the country’s children found that 6 million are living below the poverty line.

According to the report, families are barely able to provide the minimum amount of nutrition needed for children to survive and thrive.

The South African Child Gauge report is published by UCT’s Children’s Institute.

The report found that only 25% of children live in nuclear families, while 62% live in extended family arrangements. Single-headed households account for 22% of all households in the country.

More than 7million children live in households where the head is defined as their grandparent or great-grandparent, but that does not mean that biological parents are not present, or that those who are absent do not maintain contact with their children.

The UN Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

A co-editor of the report, Zitha Mokomane, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria, said: “What the surveys cannot see is the extent to which families are stretched, with members spread across different households.

“Many absent parents see their children regularly and help to support them financially, even when they live elsewhere.”

The Child Support Grant, which reaches more than 12 million children every month, had its own failures due to administrative systems struggling to keep up with people’s movement and changing care arrangements.

“There is therefore an urgent need for families and the state to align their efforts to improve conditions for children. Families are arguably the state’s greatest resource: the state needs families to reproduce the population, to nurture children and provide for their needs,” the institute said.

The report also highlighted some huge victories in legislation.

Co-editor Katharine Hall, of the UCT Children’s Institute, said the amendment of the Maintenance Act in January was a good step towards getting fathers to account for their responsibility towards their children.

“More than 12million children don’t live with their fathers; this could be because the marriage rate is dropping, men are migrating or women wish to be independent.

“But it remains that fathers are legally obliged to look after their children,” she said.

Hall said many fathers failed to pay maintenance, and the state was complicit by having a dysfunctional maintenance system.

She said one of the amendments stated that if a maintenance order was issued and not followed, the father could be blacklisted at credit bureaus.

“This is huge. If you default in any payment at the shop you are blacklisted, and now the same applies for child maintenance,” said Hall.

Another amendment was that mothers with the ID number of the father could have cellphone network providers provide them with the contact details of the father.

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