It is often said that our children are the future of our country. Yet, all too often, these vulnerable and innocent young people are endangered, hurt and robbed of their rights.
By protecting our children from harm, we are protecting the future of South Africa and doing what is surely our responsibility. The South African Children’s Rights Centre states that children are people who have the right to survival and protection, as well as the right to develop to their full potential.
However, the centre points out that children can be threatened by a number of different factors, including poverty and violence. Unicef states that a protective environment must be created worldwide in which children are safe from abuse and exploitation and allowed to develop. One of the greatest challenges facing children today is ill-health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, a child is most at risk of dying in its first month of life, which is an enormous problem in South Africa where we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. A leading cause is diarrhoea from a lack of hygiene.
Another major healthcare issue in our country is the transmission of HIV from mother to child. WHO states that more than 90% of children with HIV are infected from mother-to-child transmission, which is very sad when one considers that this can be prevented with various methods, including the use of antiretrovirals.
Studies from the Children’s Rights Centre indicate that other major issues facing the children of South Africa are poisoning, burns and road accidents, particularly in children between the ages of seven and 12. Drowning is also a contributor to the loss of life in children.
There are many ways to take action and protect our children, including:
- Undergoing tests in the early stages of pregnancy to help diagnose and prevent possible health issues such as HIV transmission;
- Practising hygiene with infants, such as boiling all drinking water and washing one’s hands with soap regularly;
- Implementing road safety rules, such as the use of seatbelts;
- Switching off electrical appliances and extinguishing of fires, as well as keeping children away from hot water;
- Locking all poisonous and chemical substances away as well as any medication, including vitamin supplements. Children can die from an overdose of iron, which can be found in vitamin supplements; and
- Supervising children at all times when near water, even those who can swim, as drowning is still a threat. In the household, emptying baths and buckets of water is essential as small children can drown in them.
Nelson Mandela once said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” The Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) encourages members and all other South Africans to remember these wise words and to take action wherever possible in ensuring the protection of our children, and our country’s future.
Please visit the GEMS website www.gems.gov.za for information about the GEMS Maternity Programme, which has been introduced to ensure that expectant mothers receive high-quality care during their pregnancies and after the birth, and to help reduce the risk of possible complications.
If you would like to know how GEMS can assist you to obtain more information about any of your healthcare needs, you can contact the GEMS call centre on 0860 00 4367 or send an SMS to 083 450 4367.