Protecting the children

KAYLYNN PALM

As Child Protection Week is marked in South Africa, Mitchell’s Plain organisations are working to raise awareness and mobilise the community to ensure that children are protected.

The campaign, which was started in 1997, runs from May 29 to June 5, with this year’s theme being ”Let us all protect children to move South Africa forward”.

One aspect of keeping children safe is protecting them against illness, by getting them immunised and the City’s mayoral committee member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli, has challenged parents and caregivers to prioritise child health as a central aspect of child protection.

According to the City of Cape Town’s health department, there are 8 187 children under the age of one in Mitchell’s Plain, and City health clinics have immunised 4 923 children between July 2015 and March this year in Mitchell’s Plain.

The provincial facilities have immunised 353 children during the same period.

“While children have a right to personal safety and a safe environment, these are of little consequence if their health is compromised. The public health service offers a number of safeguards to build resilience in children, but still there are children who miss out on these opportunities for improved health and well-being,” said Mr Mamkeli.

He added that South Africa follows the World Health Organisation’s vaccination guidelines, which means vaccinations against diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis are administered in the first year of a child’s life.

He said the City and the Provincial Health Department, are able to gauge progress using the national population register for the number of children under the age of one in a particular year and the number of vaccinations administered in the public health service.

Mr Mamkeli said between July last year to March this year the immunisation rate was 87 percent. “We are improving our coverage rate, but I’m still not convinced that we’re reaching all of the children who would fall under the public health umbrella. The importance of immunisation cannot be overstated. An unvaccinated child is at risk of preventable diseases, but also poses a risk to other children in their environment. We need to protect the health of all children and so I appeal to parents to get their children’s vaccinations up to date,” he said.

Patricia Britz-Smith, regional consultant for Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue-Vereniging (ACVV), a welfare organisation in Westridge said they are running awareness drives at schools and educares during Child Protection Week.

She said their programmes focus on child abuse, neglect, trafficking and how to protect vulnerable children.

“We are focusing on positive images and slogans – rather than protection and nurturing. We’ve also decided to again link our own ‘Go Green’ awareness activities with the ‘One Day without Shoes initiative’,” she said.

Ms Britz-Smith said their slogan for this year is “You can be a part of changing the world for a child”, using the broader campaign’s theme as a sub theme.

“The two initiatives; shoes and positive activities are linked as both focus on ensuring a better future for children and demands community participation and reporting of child maltreatment,” she said.

On Wednesday May 25 the ACVV staff did an awareness drive with Wespoort Primary and Wespoort Toddles Educare in Wespoort Drive.

“This was to make the community aware of child abuse. The pupils made posters to illustrate their stance against child abuse. We highlighted abuse and child trafficking,” she said.

On Thursday June 2, the staff will be doing the Go Green project. The staff will be going to Weltevreden Care Bear crèche in Rocklands and will spend the day without shoes.

“Community members and organisations are invited to join the ACVV team and Weltevreden Care Bear crèche. This will require you to take your shoes off at work and if possible make a donation to a child without shoes.

“This is to illustrate the feeling of being without shoes in winter,” she said.

Ms Britz-Smith said both children and parents should be aware of their rights and their responsibilities.

“Parents can attend parenting skills programmes held at our offices. Then, children must be encouraged to attend group sessions but also individual sessions focusing on peer pressure or other concerns they experience in their communities.

“The community should stand up against violence and the increase of drug abuse and high pregnancies which leads to neglect and abandonment of children,” she said.

Rochelle Philander, director of Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre in Beacon Valley, said Safeline will host a Child Protection Week service tomorrow, Thursday June 2 at the Christ the Mediator Anglican Church in Wall Street, Portland.

Ms Philander said the organisation was established to provide services to child victims of abuse in disadvantaged communities all over the Western Cape.

“The aim and vision of the organisation is to render long-term counselling to child victims of sexual abuse, to engage children in individual therapy so as to deal with the emotional trauma caused.

“The aim is to render support to the family of the child victim as they journey in adapting coping mechanisms to assist with their own trauma and that of their child,” she said.

Ms Philander said stakeholders from different sectors have been invited to participate in the event.

“The most important focus area in this event is that together as stakeholders we will be praying for the care and safety of our children, not only in Mitchell’s Plain or our city but across our country. We will also be joined by Mizpah Educare. This programme is five years old but this will be the second year that Safeline will be hosting it at the church,” she said.

Ms Philander said child protection awareness should happen throughout the year – and this is where NGOs such as Safeline come in, with their projects which run all year long. “Safeline, specifically has a Biblio School Holiday Programme which is targeted at pupils, the Foundation Phase Programme for teachers, parenting programme for parents and community programmes.

“These programmes are all centred on child sexual abuse and do happen throughout the year. However Child Protection Week I believe allows our sectors to zoom into this horrific crime perpetrated against children and allows for one voice across all our sectors,” she said.