News / Africa

Report: Urban African Kids Risk Exploitation

African children face growing risks as urban populations grow. (Credit: Save the Children)
African children face growing risks as urban populations grow. (Credit: Save the Children)
Joe DeCapua
A humanitarian group has warned that children living in African cities are at increasing risk of exploitation, abuse and disease. Save the Children says most of the continent’s children eventually will live in urban areas.


A new report said right now about 200 million children live in African urban areas, and the numbers are steadily rising. Save the Children said that “social and development policies are ignoring the reality” that more children are living in slums with “devastating impacts.” The report said sub-Saharan African cities have the highest degree of urban poverty and prevalence of slum populations in the world.

Voices from Urban Africa: The impact of urban growth on children is based on research in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, South Africa and Zambia.

“It’s the voices of children in communities. Because we talked to over a thousand children and their families and community members about what are they experiencing? And to me that makes it really urgent when you hear what some of the things that children said to us in this report. I mean one little boy: “When my father cannot find a job to do, he fails to buy food and we stay hungry at home.” On and on. The report is very rich in the voices of children, and it’s something that we need to take seriously,” said Carol Miller, Save the Children’s deputy area director for programs for Africa. 

According to the report, “More than half the world’s population now lives in cities, and each year the number of urban residents increases by nearly 60-million.” It added that by 2050, two-thirds will live in urban areas. In Africa, about one billion people are expected to live in urban areas by 2040.

Miller said, “Africa’s youth population is the fastest growing – ages 15 to 24 – in the world. So the growth rate in secondary cities caused us to pause to think, all right, what are we doing, and what do we need to know to really impact the lives of children?”

The report said many governments “underreport the size of urban populations, especially in slums and informal settlements.”

Miller said there are four priorities that must be addressed to ensure the health and safety of children in urban settings: health and nutrition; livelihoods; education and child protection.

“As we talk to local NGOs, non-governmental organizations across Africa, this issue of unaccompanied children, children on the streets – talking about buses pulling in to Addis Ababa and there are actually people watching to see if a boy or girl is unaccompanied, and then preying on them for sexual purposes, or others. There is a household in Malawi – one that we interviewed – with four children out of school, no adult in the household – relying on an uncle to give them some money now and then – out in the streets begging,” she said.

Urban settings often lack the community protection that exists in rural areas.

“In a rural setting you’re likely to have a grandparent or an auntie or an uncle. People in your community know you. You move to an urban setting and that disappears,” Miller said.

African children often face lack of clean water and sanitation in urban areas. (Credit: Save the Children)African children often face lack of clean water and sanitation in urban areas. (Credit: Save the Children)
x
African children often face lack of clean water and sanitation in urban areas. (Credit: Save the Children)
African children often face lack of clean water and sanitation in urban areas. (Credit: Save the Children)
The report says poor children are often not in school because they face many barriers such as fees, disabilities, lack of food, bullying and sexual harassment. Their health is put at risk, it says, from a lack of clean water and sanitation, poor nutrition and a lack of access to health care due to cost, travel, waiting times or other reasons.

Miller said, “When you have young people moving into urban settings and needing access to reproductive health, for example, and some clinics say, no, we’re not going to provide family planning to this young girl. So what choices does she have?”

Youth unemployment is also a major problem in African cities. Miller said high youth unemployment was a factor in the uprisings during the Arab Spring.

Among its recommendations, Save the Children called for holistic child protection systems like those in developed countries; enhanced hygiene and sanitation awareness and practices; trained community health workers; linking youth skills training to the awarding of grants and loans; better access for the disabled; and quality control, standards and training to support early child care development.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs