Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Save the Children UK



  1.1  The major obstacle to fulfilling South Africa's promise, especially for some 11 million poor children of whom 3% are living in child headed households, is the policy implementation gap on socio-economic issues. Save the Children believes that a concerted effort by government, donors and civil society is needed to close this policy implementation gap, especially at district level on tackling child poverty and HIV/AIDS. There is a huge need for capacity building measures with governmental and non-governmental organisations and their human resource on project management and co-ordination functions to ensure effective delivery of assistance to vulnerable children in desperate need of support in the communities where they live.

  1.2  South Africa has one of the most progressive human rights Constitutions in the world. In the 10 years of transformation immense strides have been made towards a more equitable welfare system such as introducing child support grants, unlike other countries with similar wealth in Africa. However the legacy of apartheid remains apparent in the deepening disparities of wealth and opportunities between racial groups and urban and rural areas since 1994. In South Africa one in five live on less than $1 a day and one in three adults are unemployed. Poverty is the dominant reality for 22 million South Africans, of whom at least 11 million are children. The extent of poverty is itself undermining social service delivery, utility services are rolled back by disconnections due to lack of income security.

  1.3  In South Africa Save the Children works with government and NGOs on addressing the needs of vulnerable children, especially on mitigating the impacts of HIV/AIDS. For example In Thabo Mofutsanyana district of Free State SC is developing community support for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Working with the District Aids Council we are helping to co-ordinate and enhance government initiatives at local level, helping children access their entitlement to government grants and developing community support groups to identify and assist orphans and vulnerable children. Using this experience SC is engaging with policy makers at provincial and national level on improved service delivery and replicating effective community assistance to vulnerable children.


  2.  South Africa does not have a co-ordinated and integrated poverty reduction strategy. The State has relied heavily on social assistance provisioning as its primary response to child poverty. Indeed some 85% of the Department of Social Development budget is allocated to social assistance grants, and only 15% to poverty alleviation programmes. The Interventions appear uncoordinated and fragmented and there has been limited evaluation to determine impact and improve effectiveness of such poverty alleviation programmes.

  2.1  South Africa is categorised as a middle income country. DfID's development policy for South Africa and for South Africa within the southern African region is aimed at policy development and implementation with government, with a focus on developing effective national poverty reduction and employment strategies and at a regional level—pro-poor regional trade agreements. DfID seeks broad ranging engagement on poverty rather than a highly focused programme of sector specific interventions. It is not clear how DfID views the role of South Africa within the southern africa region as a whole.

The Committee could enquire:

    How is DfID measuring success of this approach in terms of poverty reduction in South Africa?

    How is DfID helping the Government of South Africa prioritise and develop a national poverty alleviation strategy?

    What pro-poor outputs have resulted from DfID intervention or support to regional trade negotiations?


  3.  The Social Assistance Act and Regulations govern the provisioning of social security grants for children. Non-contributory cash transfers aimed at children and "families" include the Child Care Grant which goes to the primary care giver of the child; the Child Disability Grant for severely disabled children requiring home care and the Foster Care Grant. There have been impressive increases in the uptake of the CCG and a very welcome extension of this grant to children under 14 years. Despite this only 2.2 million of the 14.3 million children living in poverty in 2002 were receiving the CCG and it does not meet the needs of children between 14 and 18 years old.

  There are several legislative processes in place concerning child welfare, of which the following remain the most significant and unresolved to date:

  3.1 The Taylor report (Consolidated Report of the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System for South Africa) released in March 2002 argues for a combined approach to improving income, asset security and services security at household level, through a range of measures including a revenue replacement strategy and extending the existing government welfare provision system of grants to the elderly, disabled and children. The Committee has also made recommendations for improving access to grants for children without adult caregivers, such as those living in child headed households. Most significantly, it estimates that a grant of R100 (Basic Income Grant) to all South Africans including children would close the poverty gap by 70%. The Government of South Africa has yet to formally respond to the Report's recommendations.

  3.2 In October 2002 the review of all child-related law by the South African Law Commission resulting in the draft Children's Bill was completed. The Children's Bill, gazetted on 19 August 2003, when passed, will replace the 1983 Child Care Act and will regulate the child care system. However since former consultations the Bill has undergone many changes resulting in a reduction on essential social security measures for children, the scrapping of provisions for children in especially difficult circumstances and the removal of local authorities duties to monitor and address the needs of children. Provision of free education and health services for children unable to live at home have also been scrapped and the proposed children's court structure has been downgraded.

The Committee could enquire:

    When will the Government of South Africa formally respond to the Taylor Report recommendations?

    Will the Government of South Africa give urgent priority to consulting other government departments and NGOs each of whom provide the bulk of services to children, on the gazetted Children's Bill?


  4.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of South Africa's biggest challenges. The entire demographic and social structure of South Africa is rapidly changing as a result of HIV/AIDS. Estimates of the current number of orphans varies from 885,000 down to 660,000. In 2010 the figure is estimated to rise to more than 1.7 million. A study by the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa in 2002 found that 13% of children aged 2-14 years had lost one or both parents. In addition 3% of households were found to be child headed.

  4.1  The National Integrated Plan for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS was developed early in 2000, giving effect to a unique collaboration between three government departments—Education, Health and Social Development. Its stated aim is to ensure access to an appropriate and effective integrated system of prevention, care and support services for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It encapsulates a very specific set of activities on lifeskills education, home based care including voluntary counselling and testing and poverty relief. The main funding mechanism is by conditional grants to the provinces. There is a strong child rights movement in the country yet children and young people are not given the space to actively participate in policy decisions at all levels. This will become vital as child headed households become one of the significant family units in the economy.

  4.2  Some 2.6 million women of child bearing age (15-49 years) are HIV positive. The recent Department of Health annual antenatal seroprevalence survey estimated 90,000 infants contracted HIV from their mothers in 2002. Women continue to be the hardest hit population group, approximately 34.5% of pregnant women between 25 and 29 in South Africa were HIV positive in 2002. HIV transmission from mother to child can be reduced substantially through mother and child taking anti-retroviral treatment and ensuring that the mother exclusively breastfeeds or uses infant formula milk. Although South Africa has a controversial history of delaying access to anti-retrovirals, recent policy to make PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Treatment) and HIV anti-retrovirals available to all is to be welcomed. However to what extent the government health and social welfare services can meet this demand is of serious concern. To give an example a district clinic in Limpopo province serving some 30,000 population had just four nevirapine tablets for last year.

The Committee could enquire:

    Building on commitments made by the Government of South Africa at the Windhoek Orphan and Vulnerable Children Meeting in November 2002, will the Government support and resource the Department of Social Development to take a lead on developing a National Orphan Policy?

    Will the Government of South Africa create a mechanism to inform stakeholders of targets and progress against the National Integrated Plan for Children affected by HIV/AIDS, especially ensuring that Districts can engage with the NIP?

    What provision is the Government of South Africa making to ensure PMTCT treatment can be made available through all district clinics?


  South Africa occupies a crucial position in influencing the politics and economy of the southern Africa region. During the course of the current food crisis South Africa has been a centre for the co-ordination of the humanitarian response, and the grain surplus that the country generates is an important source of both private sector and humanitarian relief cross border flows.

  South Africa should be central to any regional analysis of food security, both in terms of tracking the commercial flows of staple food surpluses out of the country and in recognising the food needs that exist within the country. The efforts that have gone into understanding and analysing vulnerability in other countries in the region need to be replicated in South Africa and included in the regional early warning system.

  5.1  Food security is a growing concern in South Africa households, with approximately 30% of the country's population experiencing food insecurity. Price stability is fundamental to food security. Food insecure households are risk-averse households; risk-averse households do not make the investments needed to move beyond subsistence. SADC has a role to play that involves the state and the private sector in the regulation of staple food markets. Though it is not clear what sorts of systems might be able to deliver both price stability at appropriate levels, and the coordination and protection needed to nurture fragile market development, appropriate institutions need to be put in place to ensure that sufficient maize is available at prices which the poor can afford.

  5.2  HIV/AIDS itself is exacerbating food security in South Africa and in the region as a whole, as households affected by HIV face difficulties in producing or purchasing their food needs. Food insecurity and poor nutrition accelerates AIDS—thereby creating a vicious cycle.

The Committee could enquire:

    What plans the Government of South Africa is putting in place to address food security amongst poor communities?

    What is DfID doing to ensure that agriculture is not neglected by governments in southern Africa?

    How will DfID ensure that South Africa is included in regional vulnerability analysis, both within SADC and the UN, so that both South African grain surpluses and relief requirements can be tracked.


  6.  The role of South Africa's leadership is setting up NEPAD is exemplary, and South Africa remains the major driving force in this initiative. The move to agreeing a voluntary peer review systems across governments is to be welcomed and supported. To what extent NEPAD can progress the tenets of good governance, transparency and accountability within the inclusive structures of the African Union remains to be seen.

  6.1  NEPAD requests for additional aid, removal of agricultural tarriffs and debt relief are being met with demands from the G8 for accountable governance and macro-economic reform in accordance with the neo-liberal agenda. There is a danger that setbacks on the part of African countries in terms of governance and macro-economic reform is leading to excuses by rich countries not to ensure that vital policy changes for African development are met. The WSSD and Cancun trade talks highlight a continued disjuncture between African and "northern" priorities and may further marginalise prospects for large scale growth in African agriculture sector.

  6.2  Whilst NEPAD, especially through its South Africa representation, is active on the international stage, there is a need for it to engage more with local civil society interests, and particularly those of children. Given some 40% of the populaton of Africa is under 18 years of age, and in parts of Africa hit by the HIV epidemic this proportion is growing, the need for NEPAD to understand the challenges facing young people in Africa is vital.

  6.3  African leaders could build on the start made at the March 2003 NEPAD Civil Society Forum on Building Stronger Partnerships with Civil Society and support practical measures to implement the Forum's recommendations, with a particular focus on consultation with young people. The African Youth Parliament convened in March 2003 called for youth to be involved in NEPAD.

The Committee could enquire:

    What initiatives have been taken by Nepad since March this year to involve and consult young people, particularly young people from poor communities.

    In terms of G8 and Nepad engagement the Committee could inquire as to what progress has been made on the NEPAD conflict prevention and management and reconciliation initiative.

Save the Children UK

October 2003

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