Childline On The Rocks

When families and communities fail children, the government is left with the job of caring for them. Often non-governemental organisations (NGOs), such as Childline, carry out this responsibility - but they are struggling to survive.
 
In Diepsloot, where the bodies of cousins Yonelisa Mali, two and Zandile Mali, three, were found in a public toilet this week - Childline could only field one social worker.
 
The cousins' bodies were found near the spot where Anelisa Mkhondo, five, was found dumped and murdered last month.
 
Joan Van Niekerk, advocacy and training manager for Childline, says the situation was dire. The organisation works to protect children from all forms of violence.
 
Though it is ‘grateful’ for government funding, Van Niekerk says it covered only a third of the organisation's services nationally.
 
"There is money in this country, it just doesn't go to the services that are so urgently needed," said Van Niekerk.
 
"What you have is [President Jacob] Zuma spending R238-million on his Nkandla residence while he earns a president's salary. But just 10 kilometres from his home you have children who do not have enough to eat."
 
Childline recently cut its staff complement. North West had the highest retrenchment rate but there were also job losses in other provinces such as Northern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
 
In Western Cape, Childline had to sell its property just to survive.
 
Van Niekerk says Diepsloot was not the only Childline office with only one worker. Many small offices in KwaZulu-Natal are in the same situation.
 
According to a summary report by the Financial and Fiscal Commission, there are about 900 000 orphans in South Africa and the state has an obligation to provide them with social services.
 
"Many NGOs are facing serious financial difficulties as a result of the increase in the demand for their services, coupled with a decline in external and government funding in recent years," the report says.
 
"Delays in transfers from the government threaten their very existence and their ability to deliver services."
 
Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant says R5 billion had been budgeted for NGO funding this year.
 
The police have offered a R100 000 reward for information about the whereabouts of the suspected killer of the Mali children.
 
Police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said the suspect, who is in his 30s, is about 1.7 metres tall and light-skinned.
 
This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount budgeted bythe Department Social Development for NGO funding this year.
 
    - Nashira Davids is a journalist for The Times, and Graeme Hosken is a senior reporter at Sunday Times. This article first appeared on the Times Live website, www.timeslive.co.za.

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