Monday, 15 May 2017 09:00

Press release: Less words, more action required to improve the wellbeing of children in Africa

JOHANNESBURG, 12 May 2017 - The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), in collaboration with Graça Machel Trust, launched the 4th edition of its flagship report series today in Johannesburg, South Africa. The report entitled “The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016, Getting It Rights: Bridging the gap between policy and practice” examines efforts being made in various African countries to implement children’s rights and ensure their wellbeing. It reveals that while governments have made significant stride to put appropriate laws and policies, weak enforcement remains a major barrier to enhance children’s protection from abuse and exploitation and ensure their overall wellbeing.

The report finds that government institutions responsible for children’s affairs in a number of African countries have very weak institutional authority and capacity to carry out their responsibilities. It also shows that allocation of inadequate budgets and human resources to these structures further exacerbated the problem and seriously affected their ability to effectively coordinate national programmes benefiting children and achieve better results.

While launching the report, Ms Graça Machel, Founder of the Graça Machel Trust and Chairperson of the International Board of Trustees of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) said, “Here in Africa, we are not short of laws and policies, as we have done tremendous work in this regard over the last decades. What we fundamentally lack is implementation, commitment and capacity to translate them into action and improve the situation of women and children. She added, “Despite the visible and pressing challenges we have in effectively implementing laws and policies, there are very limited initiatives to explore and understand the underlying causes and barriers. This report provides a glimpse into these issues and suggests solutions to address the gaps between policy and practice”.

The report makes the case that after nearly three decades of interventions to realise children’s rights, it is unacceptable that two-thirds of children in Africa experience multiple deprivations that are detrimental to their survival and development. It highlights that there are countries where half of children under the age of five are stunted and where access to healthcare and education, especially at a secondary level, is inequitable and of very poor quality. The report identifies these realities as manifestations of institutional and systemic challenges that hinder effective implementation of laws, policies and programmes targeting children.

Mr Theophane Nikyema, Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) says, “Enhancing effectiveness of implementation efforts requires thorough planning and continuous review of performance of implementing agencies to learn what is working and what is not working. It also requires commitment to take corrective measures to strengthen and support these institutions to improve efficiency and deliver quality services to children”. 

As evidenced from the experience of countries that have made relative advances in promotion of child rights, effective implementation rests, among other things, on having functional accountability systems with appropriate mechanisms for monitoring progress and imposing sanctions in times of unsatisfactory performance. “Encouraging efforts are being made to enhance transparency and accountability in Africa”, says Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen from University of Western Cape. “However, lack of good governance at all levels still lies at the heart of the failure to fulfil human rights obligations including commitments to children and women in the African context”, Professor Sloth-Nielsen underscores.

Ensuring the wellbeing of all children is not an easy task, the report argues. It highlights that such endeavour demands unwavering commitment to change the status quo and transform the way business is done in the public sector, particularly in sectors targeting vulnerable groups such as children and women. “Urgent action is long overdue” says Ms Nomsa Daniels, Chief Executive Officer of the Graça Machel Trust, “Conscious effort needs to be made at all levels to build capacity and improve services to children and mothers, in terms of both quality and outreach, to lift them out of poverty and deprivations”.

Source: African Child Policy Forum

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