In the SADC region, children and youths constitute the majority of the population and are considered both a demographic bonus and a major challenge. According to UNICEF 2006, SADC is home to more than 17 million orphans while even more children and youths remain vulnerable. The current HIV and AIDS pandemic threatens to make the situation even worse over the next two decades.
As the Region most affected by HIV and AIDS in the world, Southern Africa has, and will continue to, bear the brunt of this orphan crisis. In addition to the effects of HIV and AIDS, the following factors also contribute to growing numbers of orphans in the SADC Region:
High levels of Poverty and Unemployment– particularly among youths – that have been exacerbated by the global economic and financial crisis and, until recently, low industrial growth;
- Tuberculosis and malaria
- Social and political conflict
- Natural disasters, such as drought and floods that make life precarious for the majority of children and youths.
Overall, the disproportionate number of children and youths in SADC deprived of essential care and the chance to develop their optimum human potential limits the Region’s capacity to meet human development targets, as well as Regional Integration and Economic Development initiatives. It also poses a major threat to political stability, peace, and security in the Region.
SADC Action on Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youths
Without basic human needs and services, children and youths become adults who cannot change their worlds for the better. Vulnerable children typically grow into vulnerable youths and vulnerable adults, who in turn have vulnerable children of their own. This reinforces a cycle of poverty and vulnerability for most families in SADC. In order to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability, the Region has taken a decision to focus on developing and monitoring the implementation of common standards and guidelines for improving the delivery of basic services for orphans and other vulnerable children and youth in the Region in a comprehensive approach as adopted in the regional Strategic Framework and Programme of Action for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children and Youth (OVC &Y), 2008–2015
A SADC Minimum Package of Services for OVC&Y identifies the basic and complementing needs and services in the following categories:
- Education and vocational skills
- Healthcare and sanitation
- Food security and nutrition
- Child and youth protection and safety
- Psycho-social well-being
- Social protection.
Member States have developed or are developing national plans of action, which provide a framework of action for governments and civil society and lay out the strategies, activities, and responsibilities for the care and support of children. Other Member States are integrating solutions into a comprehensive Children’s Act and into national poverty reduction strategies.
In addition to SADC-specific approaches, all SADC Member States have also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and all but one Member State have ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. As well, more and more SADC Member States are ratifying and integrating the African Youth Charter into their development plans.
Yet, the current delivery of services in each Member State is largely inadequate and piecemeal to respond to the complexity of needs of orphans and other vulnerable youths in the Region. In this regard, SADC is promoting a more coordinated, holistic and comprehensive service delivery approach that includes greater collaboration and referrals within and between sectors.