31 May 2013
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has commended the South African government for the impressive progress it has made in making essential services available to vulnerable children and youngsters, and supporting their parents and caregivers.
Speaking during the Conference on Orphans, Children and Youth made vulnerable by HIV and Aids in Durban on Wednesday, Unicef’s representative in South Africa, Aida Girma, said the country’s progressive legal and policy framework created an enabling environment for the protection of children and young people, and guaranteed their rights to social services.
“The South African Children’s Act gives effect to constitutional rights through the provision of a range of services, including early childhood development programmes,” Girma said.
The government has identified early childhood development (ECD) as a key focus area in its effort to improve the quality of basic education and care for children. More than 836 000 children currently benefit from ECD services in South Africa. By the end of 2012, there were more than 19 500 ECD centres across the country.
Girma also applauded the extension of free antiretroviral treatment to 1.8-million adults so they could live to see their children grow, as well as the provision of antiretroviral treatment to 150 000 children – up from 4 200 children in 2004.
The child support grant, which now reaches more than 11-million poor children, was also commended.
Girma added that ECD centres could be used effectively as “nodes of care and support” not only for vulnerable children, but also for their caregivers and communities.
“ECD services can serve as a nucleus for a wide range of community-based HIV and Aids prevention, care and support interventions.”