Spotlight on South Africa’s street children

[Image]Street children in South Africa may
soon find their lives changing for the
better under the new national strategy.
(Image: New Hope Volunteers)

Thapelo Sakoana
Media liaison officer, Department of
Social Development
+27 12 312 7303 or +27 78 453 6750

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At the end of the 2011 national Child Protection Week, held every year at the end of May, the government turned its focus to children living and working in the street by launching a national strategy to address their specific issues.

The strategy, launched on 6 June by Lulu Xingwana, the minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, will be used as a tool to coordinate the government’s effort to prevent marginalisation of children, and to assist those who are already living and working in the street.

The 2011 Child Protection Week programme was launched under the theme Working Together to Protect Children.

Xingwana emphasised that the end of Child Protection Week does not mean people should stop protecting children or advocating for their rights.

“Instead, this week should become just one milestone in our sustained efforts to protect our children from violence and abuse,” she said.

Working together to protect children

Speaking at the launch in Bloemfontein, Free State province, Xingwana said the strategy will offer guidance on the services and programmes which are available to help street children.

“With the cold weather affecting most parts of the country, street children face severe difficulties, requiring a coordinated response from the government and other organisations involved in addressing the challenge.”

She noted that the phenomenon of children living and working in the streets is worldwide, but the precise number is difficult to assess accurately because of constant changes in the status of affected children.

She said street children are a manifestation of socio-economic problems which children and families experience in communities, leading to their marginalisation.

Unicef estimates that there are about 100-million children living and working in the street worldwide. The majority of these children are in developing countries.

“While some vulnerable children may be protected through social assistance and child care services provided by the government and NGOs, other children are not detected,” said Xingwana.

She said that this is why the Department of Social Development has developed a strategy which will advise on the best response to the needs of children at risk of having to make a life in the street, as well as those who are already in that position.

The strategy focuses on prevention and early intervention to reduce risks, enhance protection of children already on the street, and reintegrate these children back into their communities.