Many SA children still cry themselves to sleep because they are hungry, Child Gauge 2012 shows, with about 60 percent living in poverty.
They live in households with a monthly income of less than R575 a person.
And the gap between rich and poor, black and white is growing.
The poorest 10 percent of South Africans receive less than 1 percent of the national income, but the richest 10 percent get 57 percent. This while 67 percent of black children live below the poverty line compared to 2 percent of white children.
On Wednesday, the Children’s Institute at UCT released the gauge, an annual review of the living conditions and challenges facing SA’s children.
“Children and inequality: closing the gap” is the theme of this year’s Child Gauge, the seventh issue, released in collaboration with Unicef and UCT’s Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit.
It prompted DA social development spokesman Mike Waters to remark: ”It is time to end the rhetoric and provide realistic proposals to end this war against our children.”
He said the gauge called for a debate in Parliament on the state of children: “Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini must start recognising that children are not served by policies that are rendered useless because it misdiagnoses the structural causes of the problems faced by children.”
Katharine Hall, senior researcher at the Children’s Institute, said: “Children have equal rights under the constitution but the world into which they are born and the opportunities in life are very unequal. While child poverty is decreasing, income inequality is rising and this affects children’s survival, development and life trajectories. It also means that high rates of inequality are likely to persist to the next generation.”
Hall said reducing inequality went beyond tackling poverty.
“As children don’t start off on an equal footing, policy-makers need to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach, to tailor policies and programmes that help close the inequality gap,” Hall said.
The research also discloses that 26 percent of children in the poorest 20 percent of households experience hunger while 37 percent of children in the poorest households live in inadequate housing.
In terms of living conditions, the gauge reveals that 54 percent of children in the poorest 20 percent of households do not have adequate supplies of potable waterwhile 46 percent do not have adequate sanitation.
High levels of unequal care are reflected in statistics showing that only 19 percent of children in the poorest households live with both parents.
Half the children in poor households live with their mother only, while 28 percent in the poorest 20 percent of households live with neither parent.
Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said the important question was what needed to be done to address the issues. “The gauge makes an important contribution to our understanding the situation of children in our country. Now we have to take collective responsibility to tackle these issues.”
Manuel said the National Development Plan included several measures to help mothers and children.