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One in Every Four Children Being Robbed of Their Childhood

Thursday 22 June 2017

One in every four children being robbed of their childhood, new report from Save the Children finds

One quarter of the world's children are being denied a childhood, a new report from Save the Children has revealed. The report includes a global index ranking the places where childhood is most and least threatened.

Launched to coincide with International Children's Day, the Stolen Childhoods report has found that at least 700 million children—and possibly hundreds of millions more—have had the promise of a full childhood brought to an early end.

The reasons vary from extreme violence and conflict, often driving families from their homes; early marriage and pregnancy; child labour, poor health and not being able to go to school.

In South Africa, the high levels of child homicide and extreme violence against children is the most concerning indicator.

Read: Save the Children to the rescue to take street kids under its wing 

South Africa is ranked 103 along with Peru in the report. While the country is not at the bottom end of the spectrum, this report is a reminder that we should not be complacent in addressing violence against children in particularly gender-based violence.

“We need to stop being reactionary. Our emotions flare up when we hear these horrific reports of gender-based violence and brutal attacks on our children – as they should - but then we go back to our daily lives. We need to invest in preventing these incidents from taking place, protect our children and reclaim their childhood. We have comfortably reduced the lives of children and women to hashtags instead of taking action,” said Gugu Ndebele, Save the Children South Africa CEO.

Late last year, Save the Children South Africa embarked on a mission to prioritise ending violence against children. The five-year strategy was born out of a costing study which revealed that the country loses R238 billion in GDP each year as a result of violence against children.

“It is our resolve that by the end of our five-year crusade violence against children will be viewed as the loathsome and abhorrent thing that it is. It is the right of every last child to grow, to develop and learn in an environment that is free from violence. This is a program that will not just impact the current generation but generations to come.”

According the World Health Organisation’s 2012 and 2015 estimates, the annual number of child homicides in South Africa has fallen by over 1,000 (from 3,300 in the early 2000s to 1,900 in 2015). The child homicide rates have declined by 46% (from 16 homicides per 100,000 children and youth aged 0-19 to 9 per 100,000).

And yet, even with this progress, South Africa still has the highest child homicide rate in Africa and, in fact, anywhere outside of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report also found that:

  • More than 200 boys and girls around the world are murdered daily
  • Every day, more than 16,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, the vast majority from preventable causes
  • About one quarter of all children under five (156 million) have their physical growth and mental development stunted as a result of malnutrition
  • One in six school-aged children worldwide is currently out of school
  • Every two seconds, a girl gives birth

"In 2015, the world made a promise that by 2030, all children be would be in school, protected, and healthy, regardless of who they are, and where they live. Although this is an ambitious target, it's within reach if governments invest in all children to guarantee they have the full childhood they deserve," added Ndebele.

In line with its Every Last Child campaign, Save the Children South Africa is calling on governments to ensure that no child dies from preventable or treatable causes or is subjected to extreme violence; is robbed of a future as a result of malnutrition or early pregnancy; and that they have access to a quality education.

The child rights organisation runs programmes that work with the most marginalised and excluded children in hard-to-reach places around the world, providing them with access to health, shelter, education, vocational programmes and protection from harm. In South Africa, Save the Children is establishing positive parenting programmes to curb the high rates of violence against children and is creating safe spaces through their early childhood care and development centers for children to learn and grow.

To donate and sign a petition calling on governments to increase investment in children, please visit


For more information or to set up an interview contact: Lois Moodley on 0724401519 or [email protected]

About: Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In South Africa and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Note to the Editor: If children are affected, we’ve got something to say. Our team of experts are available for comments, interviews and information.

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