Progress and Challenges
As one child sets off to school, dressed in a crisp school uniform and polished shoes, another knocks on a car window at a traffic light, begging for money. As one sick child is given medical attention in time, another dies on the back of his frail grandmother, who arrived at a health clinic too late.
South Africa is paradoxically one of the best and most challenging countries in Africa for children and women. It has an array of laws, policies, budgets and programmes that are expanding critical services for children, especially the most disadvantaged; but progress happens in the context of deep-seated inequities in child well-being.
The country remains one of the most unequal in the world, and income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has been increasing since 1993. As a result, the life chances of millions of children continue to be thwarted. Compared to a child growing up in the wealthiest household, a child in the poorest home in South Africa is 17 times more likely to be hungry, 25 times less likely to be covered by medical schemes and three times less likely to complete secondary education.
Racial disparities and gender gaps are apparent. Inequalities for children are more pronounced in the former homelands, which were severely neglected and under-developed under the apartheid system. Young women are disproportionately affected by HIV, and girls and women endure the worst of abuse and sexual violence. Children in female-headed households are more likely to go hungry and less likely to have access to services such as water and sanitation