DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD
DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD
Born into the African continent, children find themselves living lives which are already set for them through the financial breakthroughs done by their parents while some of them find themselves in hardships that they are in because of the present environment around them. So is the life of an African child in the Zimbabwean context where commodities are hard to come by, where money is not easily attainable and the day’s sustainability is just mere dreams.
Coined after about ten thousand black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young students on the 16th of June were shot, and hundred people were killed in the protests, leaving more than a thousand injured which then gave birth to the Day of the African Child, which is commemorated every year since 1991. Celebrating its commemorations every year, the day has had several different themes speaking to the welfare of children and their rights. The 2019 Day of the African Child runs under the theme “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children`s Rights First”
Well, let`s start with making this read relevant by enlightening each other on what a child is and what an African is. A child in the Zimbabwean context is anyone under the age of 18 (eighteen). An African is what we call one another and how we identify ourselves in Africa is an expression of a complex relationship of sameness and difference, belonging and exclusion. When talking of human rights, I refer to these as rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.
When thinking of the African Child, I found myself asking myself this question: do children have rights? To quench my thoughts and yours, children or minors, don’t have the full legal capacity of adults. Typically, minors aren’t granted the rights of adults until they reach the age of 18. This is sole because children are still developing, both physically and mentally, they aren’t considered capable of handling the same rights as mature adults. For instance, children don’t have the right to vote or own property among others.
However, children have rights to education and adequate information about their sexual reproductive health. Lack of health care, education and information lead to new sexually transmitted infections every year among young people. In the name of tradition, culture or religion, adults routinely deny children, including adolescents, vital information and education on their sexual and reproductive health, and on the means of protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
The theme: “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children`s Rights First” is in existence in the Zimbabwean context. Since January 2019, studies done by UNESCO revealed that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated in Zimbabwe, with 5.3 million people, including 2.5 million children, in need of assistance as a result of natural hazards, increased food insecurity, and an outbreak of diarrheal disease. Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14-17 March, affecting Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. It is the worst natural disaster to hit southern Africa in nearly two decades, with more than 270,000 people affected in Zimbabwe, half of whom are children. The floods caused massive destruction in nine districts, damaging 140 schools, 18 urban and periurban water supply systems and 13 health care facilities. Such natural disasters have had many children`s rights compromised. This includes the right to shelter, the right to food, the right to education, the right to proper clothing and the right to nutrition being heavily compromised when Cyclone Idai swept away their households which provided shelter, schools which were centres of education collapsing while food flowed with water.
In terms of nutrition, Cyclone Idai left 3 905 children aged between six and 59-months with severe acute malnutrition being admitted to community-based treatment programmes, showing the negative impact Cyclone Idai had on child nourishment and food security. A compromised nutrition status, especially during the first two years of a child`s life, causes irreversible damage and has been associated with early onset of metabolic syndromes like obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
During the first two years of life, the child’s body is still undergoing cellular programming, that is, the body is still learning and teaching itself how to process and utilise available resources (nutrients). Deficiencies during this early stage result in some undesirable metabolic characteristics that lead to early onset of the afore-mentioned metabolic conditions.
UNESCO states that an estimation of about 535 million children – nearly one in four children in the world – live in countries affected by humanitarian crises, often without access to medical care, clean water and sanitation facilities, proper nutrition, quality education or protection.
Violence against children takes many sinister forms. In homes, schools, communities and online around the world, it manifests itself in debilitating physical and emotional abuse. In humanitarian emergencies – especially those driven by relentless armed conflicts – violence can result in death, serious injury and lasting trauma. An insidious sort of violence also affects children when humanitarian emergencies deprive them of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and other basic needs.
Humanitarian Action for Children 2019 underscores the urgency of protecting children in crisis from all such threats to their lives, well-being and dignity. Many children suffer in silence, with no one or anywhere to turn to when natural hazards come by, this then calls for collective efforts from everyone in making sure that rights of children are observed. Putting the rights of children first is the kind of action desired. Children are the legends of tomorrow, living their lives the right way is the best way of ensuring that their future is secure. Showing kindness to the one who needs it the most brings hope and peace of mind.
By Gugulethu Ncube