There have been several vast improvements in the lives of South Africa’s children in recent years. Close to 90% of children now have access to electricity – up from 72% in 2003. About 12% of children live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day, down from 43% in 2003.
South Africa needs to invest more in early childhood development. US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart/Flickr
But amid this progress, there are also striking inequalities. Compared to their urban peers, children in rural areas are more likely to live in households with high unemployment levels and inadequate facilities. For example more than 90% of children in urban areas have access to clean drinking water at home. But for those in rural areas, this figure sits at 39%.

Similarly, more than a third (34%) of children still live in households where biofuels are used for cooking, heating or lighting. This increases their risk of poor health now and in future, particularly if they’re also living in overcrowded conditions.

These were some of the findings from the latest Child Gauge, a publication we have been releasing since 2005 to monitor South Africa’s progress towards realising children’s rights.

For the 2017 edition of the gauge, we concentrated on how South Africa is doing to improve children’s lives in relation to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There are 17 goals with more than 160 targets to end poverty, improve health, education, sanitation and access to water and reduce inequalities. Although none of the goals exclusively address children’s needs, most targets are either directly or indirectly related to children.

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