As the FIFA World Cup comes to the end of its first week in South Africa, World Vision is calling for the protection of children who will be vulnerable and at risk during the football competition and beyond.
While the world’s biggest sporting event takes place in Africa for the first time, the aid agency says it is concerned about the heightened risk of trafficking and exploitation of children.
During the games, thousands of people are expected to visit South Africa, which is yet to put in place legislation against trafficking in persons.
World Vision and like-minded partners are seriously concerned that in the absence of anti-trafficking legislation, vulnerable children will not be sufficiently protected.
It is feared that the rate of trafficking of children may increase tenfold during the World Cup if measures to protect children are not ramped up.
Lack of reliable statistics, due to the clandestine nature of trafficking in persons and the absence of a coordinated response to the problem in South Africa, has made dealing with it a huge challenge.
Cases of trafficking in persons have not been recorded as such in the country because there is no specific domestic legislation on such trafficking.
Although there are 16 pieces of legislation in South Africa to combat trafficking, these are all fragmented and do not give trafficking the importance it deserves with regard to prevention, protection and prosecution, especially as it relates to safeguarding the rights and dignity of children.
In South Africa, there is currently minimal service provision for trafficked children.
World Vision is calling on all South Africans and visitors to the country to combat and prevent child trafficking during World Cup events.
As they keep their eyes on the ball, they also need to keep their eyes on children to avoid getting caught offside while children are trafficked and not sufficiently protected. Human trafficking must be red-carded by all, the aid agency says.
The hope is that civil society and all ruling institutions will increase their efforts to ensure optimal protection of children against trafficking or any form of injustice or abuse during and after the World Cup.
World Vision has teamed up with the Johannesburg Child Welfare and Olive Leaf Foundation to manage a Child-Friendly Space (children’s centre) at the Elkah Stadium in Soweto.
The centre will provide a safe and supervised environment where vulnerable children and those at risk will access temporary care. It will also provide emergency tracing and reunification services for lost children and separated and unaccompanied minors in and around FIFA Fan Fest events.
In addition, the centre will offer specialised onsite child protection services and/or referrals for children identified as affected by abuse, neglect, violence and/or exploitation.
“The existing efforts by government to provide better mechanisms for reporting child abuse and neglect need to be acknowledged,” said Lehlohonolo Chabeli, the National Director of World Vision South Africa.
President Jacob Zuma launched the Children’s Act two weeks ago and linked it to the launch of Child Protection Week, which ran until 30 May.
After 10 years of consultation, the legislation was adopted into law last month, giving emphasis to alleviating the plight of child-headed households.
The government also highlighted the benefits of the infrastructure put in place for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, for children of current and future generations.
Chabeli is calling on the global community to use the 2010 FIFA World Cup platform to unite in efforts to protect children from anything that may prohibit them from living a life in all its fullness.
“Let us keep our eyes on our children, let us open our eyes to the harsh reality of child trafficking, and let us show the will to rid society from anything that spells danger to our children.”