The day of the African Child
The 16th of June commemorated the International Day of the African Child across the globe. This day was designated by the African Union in 1991 to reemphasise the importance of the rights of African children and to bring awareness to the problems facing children across the continent. African children across our continent are presented by severe danger now more than ever. In Nigeria Boko Haram continues to attack villages within the North East of Nigeria. In Libya civil war continues to rage on and in neighbouring Egypt continued instability threatens the lives of young children. The East of Africa does not fare much better than their West and North African counterparts with continued civil war in Northern Uganda and increased instability at the Ethiopian and Eritrean borders.
Although currently less conflict prone Southern Africa is also faced by numerous crises. Since 2014 Southern African countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi have suffered prolonged periods of drought and crop failure due to the effects of El Nino. El Nino refers to the abnormal warming of water temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean that result in extreme changes in climate around the globe. The El Nino phenomenon has been worsened by climate change. According to the Food Aid Organization (FAO), Southern Africa has been hit by the worst El Nino event in the last 50 years. Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe have all declared national disasters due to the severe drought, consequent crop failure and food shortages. With this is mind it is important to remember that in every conflict and crisis that currently faces African countries it is the children that suffer the most. Children are our most valuable assets but also our most vulnerable. Conflict and crisis have made it difficult to ensure that children’s rights as stipulated by the legal frameworks of the African Charter of Children’s Rights (ACCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCR) are respected. The purpose of reflecting on the condition of our continent is not to champion the narrative of the doomed African continent but to emphasize the plight of children across our entire continent.
At Nhaka Foundation we have witnessed the effects of El Nino and climate change on children’s rights to adequate and culturally appropriate food in our own country Zimbabwe first hand. During our interactions with teachers within the Goromonzi district many recount how students walk long distances of about 8 kilometers to and from school having had nothing to eat. The situation is so bad that some pupils arrive at school so hungry that they faint. The responsibility to protect and to ensure that children are protected in crisis is not just up to the government and organizations but to society at large. As the old African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Many repeat the age old statement “children are the future”. However, we forget that the quality of life children enjoy will influence the type of future they have and the leaders they become. A child’s situation today shapes their tomorrow.
The IDAC is not only designated to bring awareness to the importance of protecting the rights of African children but also to celebrate their achievements and dignity. The majority of images that are disseminated by the media often misrepresent the African child. The images the world sees of African children are usually those of dirty, naked vulnerable or starving children, though true, this is not the only one side of the African Child’s story. African children are also strong, valuable members of the global community with so much more to contribute to the world if given the chance and opportunity.
At Nhaka Foundation we believe that African children are just as important as any other children in the various parts of the world and they also deserve to be treated as such. On this day as we celebrate African children’s lives, their resilience and their achievements. Let us also honour and remember the memory of those African children whose lives were cut short whilst the world watched and those that endeavour to uphold the rights of all children.
Until next time,
Media and Programs Intern