By Fabíola Ortiz

GOMA (IDN) - Since February this year, 16-year old Melvin* lives in a shelter for former child soldiers in the suburbs of Goma, the capital city of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He belongs to a small community.

His story resembles that of many Congolese boys living in the faraway communities in eastern DRC. He was abducted from his home village to forcedly join the Nyatura rebels – a Mayi-Mayi ethnic community-led armed group founded in 2010 mainly by the Congolese Hutus. Among the human rights violations they have been accused of is the recruitment of child soldiers – one of the most heinous crimes they have committed.

It is two years now that the introverted Melvin, who has lost track of his family, has not been able to return to his community. He is likely to be one among thousands of orphans from the conflict.

- Photo: 2021

Africa Faces A “Perfect Storm” Due to Under-Investment in Children

By Ronald Joshua

ADDIS ABABA (IDN) — Child deprivation “has a lasting and detrimental impact on nations’ political stability, prosperity and sustainable development”, warns a new report. Titled The Economic Case for Investing in Children in Africa: Investing in our Common Future, the report was launched on November 18 at a pan-African virtual event involving representatives from African governments, the UN, World Bank, civil society organisations, human rights activists and child policy experts.

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) research report clearly shows that investment in children, especially in early childhood, has substantial long term economic and social benefits.

“Despite compelling evidence, many African countries still do not seem to recognise the benefits of investing in children,” said ACPF Executive Director Dr Joan Nyanyuki. “There is a general tendency to see resources spent on children as an act of benevolence rather than an investment that will yield huge returns over a longer period of time. With less than ten years to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African governments should accelerate their investments in children’s health, nutrition, education, protection, and other essential services. The time to act is now.”

“Governments must stop treating social protection for children as a luxury they can’t afford and start treating it as a necessity for economic development they can’t afford to ignore,” stated Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

Child labour is singled out as one of the visible signs of failed economic policies and of deprivation. The report notes that three out of every ten African children are victims of child labour; a quarter of all modern slavery involves a child; and in some countries, such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Benin, more than 40 percent of children are victims. 

The economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is also hitting investment in children, note the report’s authors. “Children, who are the most vulnerable, experience adverse outcomes during economic downturns, a phenomenon that is much more marked in poorer countries,” they say.

“Income shocks due to economic slowdowns may also lead to increases in child labour. Economic downturns will have negative impacts on the future prospects of all family members, including children, and will have consequences for years to come.”

“Child-insensitive socioeconomic policies have resulted in limited investment in children and thwarted opportunities to expand access to basic services, particularly to vulnerable groups. Lack of recognition of the substantial social and economic benefits of investing in children among policy-makers has also contributed to governments’ inaction.” said Dr Nyanyuki.

“The cost of inaction is unnecessarily, and unacceptably high and African governments need to accelerate their investment in children’s health, nutrition, education, protection and other essential services. Achieving the necessary progress requires governments to commit to giving greater political and institutional visibility to children’s needs. The time to act is now.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 November 2021]

Photo credit: UNICEF

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