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Violence against children carries a hefty R238-billion price tag

Wednesday 23 November 2016

by Roxanne Henderson at Times Live

Violence against children does not come cheap – last year it cost the economy over R238-billion.

This according to the results of a study commissioned by Save the Children South Africa‚ launched on Wednesday in Johannesburg.

“We know it's no longer enough to simply address the symptoms. It's no longer enough to continue putting sticky plasters on broken bones. It's no longer enough to wipe away the tears.

“It was important for us to quantify the cost of violence against children on our GDP to highlight the urgency with which we need to act‚” the organisation's chief executive officer Gugu Ndebele said.

To do this Save the Children brought researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT)‚ the University of Edinburgh and Georgia State University on board.

The study‚ which focuses on physical violence‚ sexual violence‚ emotional violence and neglect‚ collected data from the Optimus Study in South Africa‚ and other sources‚ to understand the prevalence of violence against children in the country.

With this information at hand researchers were able to calculate relative risk children were at‚ given exposure to child abuse‚ and population attributable fractions (PAFs)‚ which is the estimated proportion of morbidity or mortality linked to a risk factor.

The PAFs found‚ for example‚ that if sexual violence against South African children could be prevented drug abuse would be reduced by 14%‚ Save the Children research head Dr Celia Hsiao said.

Researchers were then able to estimate the economic burden of violence against children using the estimated number of healthy life years lost due to violence‚ and estimated the monetary value of those years‚ the estimated earnings lost due to violence against children and the national cost of the Department of Social Development's Child Care and Protection programme.

Summing up the costs of these three variables they reached the grand total of R238.58-billion lost due to violence against children in 2015 - 6% of South Africa's GDP.

A break-down of this figure shows: - The estimated cost of the number of healthy life years lost to fatal violence against children in 2015 was R6.2-billion. - The estimated cost of the number of healthy life years lost to non-fatal physical violence against children in 2015 was R103.8-billion. - The total productivity loss in the country for 2015 attributable to physical violence against children reached R25.2-billion. The country lost an estimated R9.6-billion in earnings due to emotional violence in the same year. - The national cost of the country's child care and protection programmes in the 2015/2016 financial year totalled R1.58-billion.

Professor Cathy Ward of UCT's psychology department said the study's findings showed that the scourge of child abuse must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

“These findings highlight how preventing violence ... is also an effective investment that will yield many social and economic returns for South Africa.” 

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