African governments and other stakeholders have the responsibility to protect children from all forms of abuse and exploitation.
There is also need to ensure that children have access to health care and education and are able to express themselves freely.
If children are to be groomed into productive citizens, they need to be cared for and given an opportunity to live in an environment of safety, happiness and love.
Besides, as human beings, they too deserve to enjoy their rights and human potential.
While this may be the desired status, reality on the ground gives a gloomy picture of the state of children in Africa.
The recently launched African Report on Children’s Well-being 2016 dubbed “Getting it Right: Bridging the Gap between Policy and Practice” indicates that despite Africa making encouraging progress in policy formulation, the realisation of children’s fundamental rights to survival, development, protection and participation remains generally unsatisfactory.
The report, which was launched by the African Child Policy Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa recently, is the fourth edition of the flagship series aimed at providing an overview of current efforts by African governments to translate legal and policy commitments into effective actions that improve the well-being of children.
The report interrogates why 25 years after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, among other interventions, Africa is home to countries where:
- Two-thirds of children are experiencing multiple deprivations detrimental to their development.
- Thirty-four million children are out of school with limited prospects of entering school again.
- As much as 94 percent of births are not registered, with many children not having legal proof of existence
- Fifty-eight million children under the age of five are stunted, with proportions of stunting ranging from 30 to 50 percent of the total child population across countries.
- More than half of Africa’s children are not getting vaccines for deadly childhood illnesses such as measles.
- Most children are excluded from secondary education.
- Girls continue to lag behind in access to education, particularly at secondary level.
- Millions of children are experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation without any functional child protection system or access to psychosocial and legal services
- Programmes and structures set up for children remain a low priority for resources and lack of capacity and power to exercise their mandates.
According to the report, most of the problems highlighted above point to the cumulative deficit in implementation and the gap between policy and practice.
The report’s findings on why Africa is still lagging behind in children’s welfare revealed that most government structures responsible for child rights implementation across the continent are too often overburdened with multiple and competing mandates and most suffer from severe capacity limitations.
The report further states that inadequate budgets and shortages of human resources are among the main barriers to ministries’ and agencies ability to realise progressively, children’s rights and well-being.
Coordination and accountability mechanisms are also weak, and fail to ensure quality services for children who represent 57 percent of the population of Africa.
If Africa is to attain sustainable development goals and fulfil the Agenda 2063 – to create an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena – prioritising the welfare of children by allocating adequate human and financial resources to their welfare is inevitable.
In view of the gap between policy and implementation in addressing children’s welfare, the report recommends six priority areas for action:
- Articulate and develop a shared vision for children with achievable targets that enjoy strong political support and sustained commitment from all players. This must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan of action for its realisation, strategies, and adequate budgets for effective implementation.
- Take concrete measures to build capacity of government bodies mandated to implement and coordinate children’s rights at all levels.
- Establish, at national and sub-national levels a cross-sectoral and hierarchical mechanism dedicated to coordinating child rights and implementation.
- Strengthen accountability systems at all levels of governance by building their capacity, investing in data collection and dissemination, enhancing monitoring and empowering independent human rights institutions and the media.
- Increase budget allocations to structures, sectors and programmes benefiting children and ensure that these budgets are used efficiently.
- Enhance children’s involvement in the implementation of their rights.
While Zambia has shown strong political will towards the welfare of children in the past years, by ratifying international charters on children’s rights, as well as adopting right laws and policies, the report is an eye opener to many other areas that need attention if we are to advance the rights of children to satisfactory levels.
I recommend that Government, through the relevant ministries, takes keen interest in this report to adopt some of the strategies for effective implementation of children’s rights and programmes.
By Emelda Musonda
Source: Zambia Daily Mail