Editor’s Note: Another guest post from our friends at SOS Children’s Villages is coming your way. This time around they’re informing us of the numerous risks facing children in South Africa as a result of the FIFA World Cup.
By Kyna Rubin
While South Africa’s children are ecstatic to be hosting the 2010 World Cup, child advocates, parents, and even South Africa’s president are concerned about keeping the nation’s children safe during this exciting time. The World Cup falls on South Africa’s winter school holiday, which is being extended this year for the big event.
President Jacob Zuma warned parents about an expected rise in child trafficking during the month-long festivities. “Children wandering alone in shopping malls and football stadiums will be vulnerable to people with evil intentions,” he cautioned.
The president’s comments came during a May 21 speech in which he launched South Africa’s Child Protection Week. In his address he also announced the Children’s Act, which took effect on April 1. The law, he said, “introduces better reporting mechanisms for child abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children. It is also innovative in the sense that it addresses the plight of child-headed households.”
Keeping Kids Safe Off the Soccer Fields
For many of South Africa’s working parents, the prolonged school break means that their children may sometimes be unsupervised, a potentially risky scenario to which President Zuma alluded in his speech.
Child-related groups are equally concerned about child safety, though they are alarmed by risks other than trafficking. Janet Prest Talbot of the Children’s Rights Center, a Durban-based non-governmental organization (NGO), told IRIN/Plus News that kids left on their own are at greater risk of abuse and sexual experimentation. While the government has set up anti-human trafficking teams in each South African host city, the biggest risk, she argued, is not trafficking, but child abuse committed by neighbors or family members.
Hunger is another risk. Many children who have little to eat at home depend on school to provide their main meal. Joan van Niekerk, national coordinator of Childline South Africa, told IRIN/Plus News that the government would have better invested its money in feeding children during the winter break than in producing pamphlets to prevent human trafficking. “We are very worried, but not about trafficking or the safety of children at stadiums,” she said. “We’re worried about what’s happening to children in their homes. If children are hungry, they’re going to go out there looking for food.”
SOS Children’s Villages in South Africa: A Year-round Safe Haven
During the school holiday, several NGOs are running camps for disadvantaged children to keep them off the streets. The features of these programs — HIV/AIDS education and sports, for instance, are just a few of the year-round services that SOS Children’s Villages provides for the South African children it raises.
SOS has eight Children’s Villages in South Africa, where it offers loving homes to some 1,000 children, including some of the nation’s 1.2 million AIDS orphans. By offering an SOS family food, education, and medical care to children without parental care, SOS brings concrete hope to South Africa’s children. To learn more, please visit SOS Children’s Villages.
photo credit: SOS Children's Villages