Dr Deborah Fry, Lecturer in Child Protection at the University of Edinburgh, has acted as consultant on the effects of violence against children in South Africa for Save the Children South Africa, in partnership with the University of Cape Town and Georgia State University.
Violence against children exists in every country, and in South Africa children report experiencing high levels of all forms of violence. Recorded levels do not accurately reflect the full extent of the problem because many cases go unreported.
Violence has long-lasting consequences for children, with strong evidence of a link between childhood violence and mental health disorders and substance abuse later in life.
The consultancy was conducted in three stages, to estimate the cost of violence against children in South Africa.
The impact and benefits
The economic burden of violence against children in South Africa is substantial. The team found that the cost of physical and emotional violence against children was equal to 6% of South Africa’s gross domestic product in 2015. This study confirms the importance of prioritising violence against children as a key social and economic concern for South Africa’s future. The data generated as part of this analysis will help raise the awareness of policymakers on the lifetime impacts of violence against children, guide budget allocation and investment, and provide data for economic evaluations of interventions to reduce or prevent violence against children.
It also underscores the need to steer resources towards prevention and to strengthen the knowledge base regarding the scale and consequences of violence against children at the national level. Estimating the economic burden of violence against children is important for several reasons, including increasing awareness of the current severity of violence against children, assisting policy makers and developing preventative services, placing the problem in the context of other public health concerns, and providing data for economic evaluations of interventions to reduce or prevent violence against children. Save the Children South Africa aims to advocate for an effective child protection system that prevents and responds to violence against children.
To make this happen, the government needs data and evidence to understand the consequences of violence against children both to the individual victims and their families and to the society as a whole. In this way, violence against children can be understood as the public policy issue that it is, having implications for social and economic costs if not addressed.
What happens next
Because of the study, Save the Children South Africa launched a five-year campaign of programming to focus on violence prevention. The academic team will continue working with Save the Children South Africa to try to maximise (as well as track) this impact.
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