previous executive director
Health Systems Trust
The care and protection of children is a practice and ethic rooted deep in the wisdom and culture of all societies, wrote James P Grant, the previous executive director of UNICEF. He was referring to a deep and universalbut often neglectedknowledge that children are vulnerable. Their situation is closely linked to poverty, and more closely related to social inequality than to general economic hardship. Under apartheid, South African children were exposed to gross human rights violations such as detention and shooting. But the less dramatic, more pervasive, violations of apartheidsuch as racial exclusion from most of the land and the economy, and discrimination in health care and educationultimately did more harm. These softer violations have left todays children with an historical disadvantage as a result of social inequity, underdevelopment and poverty. About 61% of South African children live in poverty and, since families with large numbers of children are more likely to be poor, a disproportionate number live in poor households. Children's rights raise important questions for all those concerned with the health of children. These range from the macro-economic issues to interactions with individual patients.