UNICEF South Africa speaks at global conference on Universal Child Grants

UNICEF is encouraged that, at present, most countries on the continent have some form of social safety net for children as a means to addressing their poverty and deprivation.

UNICEF South Africa
25 January 2019

Geneva - UNICEF is encouraged that, at present, most countries on the continent have some form of social safety net for children as a means to addressing their poverty and deprivation.

Indeed, universal social protection has gradually entered the discourse in eastern and southern Africa, led by the example of early-movers such as South Africa, but discussions are often concerned about dependency, administrative feasibility, and cost. However, both coverage and benefit levels remain low throughout most of the continent, with the average coverage of children reaching just 15%.

It is equally a reality that poverty and deprivation on the continent are both chronic and transient and are aggravated by climate change and a demographic boom that will see approximately 650 million babies born by 2050, with wide implications for health and education systems, urbanisation, jobs and livelihoods.

To share best practice on this and assess what would be needed to scale up much-needed cash transfers for children, UNICEF co-organized, with the International Labour Organisation and ODI, a global conference on universal child grants. A high-level delegation from the Government of South Africa participated in the conference and UNICEF South Africa was represented by Ms. Mayke Huijbregts, the Chief of Child Protection and Social Policy. Ms. Huijbregts also chaired a panel on ‘Reflections of regional experiences on social protection practices and experiences from 6 regions in the world’.

Though the diversity of the region defies generalisation, Ms. Huijbregts noted that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are faced with complex and intersecting deprivations that constrain the lives and livelihoods of their populations. Research suggests that by 2030, just five countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Sudan – will comprise the majority of the world’s extreme poor, with half of the global share of child mortality found in four countries in the region (e.g. Chad, DRC, Nigeria, and Somalia).

There is therefore considerable work to be done for children in many African countries and it is hoped that this important conference is the start of accelerated action to leaving no child behind on the continent.