As a mother, I am horrified to think of the pain endured by the 70 000 families in South Africa each year that lose a child before their fifth birthday (‘Our children are dying in droves’, Cape Times 22nd August).
As National Director of the Black Sash, I know that this grief is a consequence of our society’s reluctance to deal with the full extent of poverty. I endorse Professors’ Sanders and Reynolds statement, “the suffering and death of thousands of small children reflect a yawning gap between our constitutional and human rights obligations and our nation’s well-being.”
As an organisation that works to make human rights real, the Black Sash can testify to the fact that the poorest families find it most difficult to access welfare provision. Our evidence of this will be presented to the Pretoria High Court on Friday (24 August) by the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS).
In addition to the difficulties around accessing the Child Support Grant, there are serious problems with the dilution of the benefit. Whole families are being forced to scrape by on the money intended for their care. With our high unemployment rate and low wages, an untenable number of South Africans are relying on the grant to survive. The Black Sash believes that the only way to protect the benefit given to children, is to provide some form of financial assistance to the adults that care for them.
We urgently need a comprehensive social security plan for the unemployed and working poor. If we are not prepared to invest in our people now, we will be forced to pay the price of our neglect later and the number of children who die as a result of poverty will continue to increase.