Millions of children robbed of childhood in East and Southern Africa

The number of stunted children in East and Southern Africa has increased from 24 million in the 1990s to 26 million children in 2016, despite the reduction of malnutrition from 53 percent in 1990 to 35 percent in 2016.

A report by Save the Children Friday revealed that while the rate of child marriages was also decreasing, 1 in 3 girls at 36 percent in East and Southern Africa marry before their 18th birthday.

According to the report, the scenario exposes them to life-long challenges in their education, psychosocial health and general well-being and if nothing is changed, almost 50 percent of girls married before the age of 18 will be in Africa by 2050.

Save the Children Regional Director in East and Southern Africa Mr. David Wright said children growing up in war � targeted by violent groups, suffering and dying from disease and experiencing harsh discrimination � were robbed of everything that makes them children.

Wright made the remarks while releasing the report dubbed, Stolen Childhoods, Friday as the world marked the Day of the African Child.

It is unacceptable that in 2017, millions of children in this region and around the world are still deprived of their right to be safe, learn, grow and play. We must, and we can, do better than this, added Wright.

According to the report, there are eight Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are relevant to addressing premature end to childhood in Africa.

The eight are: Ending poverty; eradicating hunger; promoting health; securing education; effecting gender equality; access to water and sanitation; living in peace and promoting mechanisms and partnerships.

Wright says the focus on SDGs was a compelling foundation under which African governments should base their priorities

In 2015, the world made a promise that by 2030, all children would be in school, protected and healthy regardless of who they are and where they live. Although this is an ambitious target, it is within reach if African governments invest in all children to guarantee they have the full childhood they deserve, said Wright.

The Childhoods report also indicates that over 700 million children globally have had the promise of a full childhood brought to an early end.

In East and Southern Africa, the report quotes poor health, malnutrition, conflict, exclusion from school, extreme violence, child marriage, teenage pregnancies and exposure to harmful work as leading factors threatening childhood.

Wright called upon African governments to accelerate efforts to meet the SDGs to ensure that no child dies from preventable or treatable causes or be subjected to extreme violence or robbed of a future as a result of malnutrition, early or forced marriage.

They need, he observed, to have access to a quality education and realise all of their rights as provided by the African Charter.

We call on the governments to invest in all children by ensuring that they have access to quality basic services, including protection and social protection services, he said.

Source: Kenya News Agency