Time to protect children from violence and save lives now

UNICEF South Africa statement in response to release of latest quarterly crime statistics.

20 February 2024

20 February 2024 - “Shocking levels of violence continue to destroy children’s lives across South Africa, with 285 children murdered and 2,707 surviving attempted murder, assault, or grievous bodily harm between October and December 2023.

The latest quarterly South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics once again reveal the tragic and dangerous reality of life for far too many children. On average, thirty-three children are violently attacked each day and at least three of them will not survive.

Despite the horror, the figures show a nearly 11 per cent decline in the number of child murders compared to the same three-month period in 2022 but an almost 12 per cent jump in violent assaults.

In the last quarter of 2023, some 1,135 women were also murdered and more than 20,300 violently assaulted. Worryingly, the statistics only represent reported cases, and the real situation is likely to be far worse.

This violence not only ends young lives and those of thousands of women and girls but has a devasting impact on families, communities, and the nation’s development.

The latest statistics follow the release of the Committee on the Rights of the Child concluding observations on South Africa’s periodic child rights report. The Committee expressed concern over the high prevalence of all forms of violence against children and UNICEF welcomes their call to strengthen efforts to tackle the root causes and to eradicate violence against children.

What this means is engaging all of society in the response. Research shows that we can reduce violence through committing and investing in interventions that work, from the home to school and into the community and work environment.

This includes:

  • Scaling-up parenting support to promote non-violent disciplinary techniques, improving mental wellbeing, and encouraging positive - as opposed to toxic -masculinity.
  • Increasing investments in violence prevention and early intervention programming that can save lives.
  • Training teachers and child and youth care workers to identify at risk children, while improving care for child survivors of violence.
  • Putting into action the School Safety Framework and other initiatives to create a safer learning environment.

The time to protect every woman, girl, and boy and to stop the killing is now. Without the safety and nurturing care children need to survive and thrive, society will bear the consequences of a cycle of violence and continued social and economic strain.

Let’s mark the thirtieth year of South Africa’s democracy by respecting and realizing the rights of every child, so that the nation’s greatest resource – its children – can lead the country’s journey of development and progress over the coming three decades.”

Media contacts

Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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