AFRICAN UNION -  10 November 2023

New report shows an estimated 35 million children in Africa are without parental care

An estimated 35 million children are without parental care in Africa, a report released by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, part of the African Union, has shown.

These children are routinely exposed to various forms of violence including sexual abuse, forced labour, and trafficking. In some cases, they have been separated from their family due to natural and man-made disasters. The lack of parental care increases the chances of substance and drug abuse, mental health issues, limited access to education, and healthcare, the report finds.

"The findings of this study make it abundantly clear that we cannot continue with business as usual,” said President Dereje Wordofa of SOS Children’s Villages International at the event launching the report. “Instead, we must embrace a meaningful paradigm shift in how we conceptualize, invest, and take action to address these challenges."

The study indicates that a considerable number of African countries do not explicitly include provisions for the protection and care of children without parental care (CWPC). More than 70% of countries in various regions of Africa lack explicit comprehensive child protection policy frameworks and guidance.

The most practiced alternative care options for CWPC across Africa include kinship care, foster care, kafalah, residential care and institutional care. The availability of these options varies by region.

The study – the first of its kind for the African continent - was conducted from 2020 to 2022, covering over 43 countries in the five regions of Africa. It was meant to provide baseline information to improve understanding of the situation of children without parental care in Africa. The report was produced by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, in collaboration with African Union member states, partner organizations - including SOS Children's Villages - and children and young people.

Young people with experience in alternative care from different African countries attended the launch event, which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They had an opportunity to highlight the challenges affecting them and give recommendations. Rokya, 27, from Senegal is optimistic that with the release of the report, things will change.

"During the launch, a lot of suggestions and ideas were put forward,” she said. “I am very confident that a lot of things will change as a result of this study, because so many countries are involved. A number of countries have shared the strategies they plan to put in place to improve the situation of children without parental care in Africa.”

"Today, I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of children without parental care,” said Linka, 17, from Burundi. “It was a really great opportunity to be a voice for them, to know that I can contribute to the discussions. I was so glad to be here and to share our ideas, because it was not only my ideas, but it was developed with other children from different countries."

To better the lives of children and young people without parental care, the young people hope the document will be implemented by all the African countries.

“Many thanks to the committee for conducting this important study, which shows the situation of children and young people without parental care in Africa, and which can help our States to take the necessary decisions to protect all children," said Rokya. "We are grateful to the committee for seeing our suffering and providing evidence for governments to act. This is the first time we've had such a study in Africa, and we're proud of it," she added.

The young people in attendance made the following recommendations to decision-makers:

  • Governments should continue to implement strategies to ensure that every child has access to basic life essentials and to implement all child protection policies,
  • Governments should develop laws that help children and young people to transition to independent living without hindering the child’s developmental rights, 
  • Governments must protect children and therefore ensure that anyone is held accountable, regardless of who they are, for the harm they cause and to face the full wrath of the law,
  • Governments have to dedicate a fraction of the budget to support children without parental care and support structures and organizations that care for children without parental care in all countries,
  • All the stakeholders to have a greater impact together in implementing child protection policies, given the evidence now available and the objectives to be achieved.

President Wordofa of SOS Children’s Villages said the organization is investing in services that prevent family separation and empower communities to address the root causes of child abandonment and family breakdown. “All of us here, share the same vision for the children. To materialize this vision, rather than focusing on our differences, let’s collaboratively work on an effective solution based on respect and understanding of each child’s need,” he said.

Read the full report

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