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    Ilala Municipal Council in Dar es Salaam praises the involvement of CSOs and NGOs in improving the education of children in the district's poverty-stricken households

    Ilala Municipal Council in Dar es Salaam has praised the involvement of civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations in improving the education of children in the district's poverty-stricken households.

    Ilala Municipal Council education officer, Lukia Gwandu, says that a number of schools in Ilala District still lack educational infrastructure.

    Gwandu explains that these organisations have been working hard to complement government efforts in improving reading, writing and basic arithmetic skills for children.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs team up to revive education,” click here

    All Africa

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    A child rights organisation calls for practical interventions that can significantly benefit children in the country in order to bail them out from the challenges that they face

    A child rights organisation has called for practical interventions that can significantly benefit children in the country in order to bail them out from the challenges that they face.

    The organisation, the Child Rights Permanent Committee (CRPC) which is a grouping of child rights non-governmental in Malawi under the NGO Gender Coordination Network, made the call during a meeting which was aimed at assessing children’s rights.

    Chairperson for the committee, Lucky Mbewe, says the country has a number of laws and policies which would help promote the welfare of the children but the legal frameworks are not effective since children in Malawi continue facing a lot of challenges such as physical abuse, child labour, sexual abuse and early marriages.

    To read the article titled, “End abuse against children – NGO says,” click here.


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    This was a heated topic on our WhatsApp group earlier this month and funny enough, Stian sent a chat that a woman sitting next to him on the plane was breastfeeding…Quite funny since we have been discussing about it and even though the discussion had died down it suddenly erupted again. Well, my personal take on it at first was that women can feed anywhere, it doesn’t matter as long as they cover up and some of my mates where just not for that compromise, especially the females in the group. Well I can say the end of it all - let me leave the dashes for now and share some of the interesting views shared.

    Ruth shared that women in rural communities in Africa breastfeed in public as a sign of pride. This is quite true especially when the women are in a polygamous marriage. I’m quite the imaginator when such things are said and as it might not seem funny to others, I could just imagine the first wife who was not able to bear a child for the union or one that only gave birth to baby girls looking at this wife number two or three breastfeeding her son with so much envy. As terrible as it might sound, especially with the term, ‘son’. We will leave that for another day’s topic. The point I’m driving at is the reality in most patriarchal led traditional communities. This moved the topic to becoming a discussion about patriarchy oppression of the women.

    There was an argument from one men when I heard the discussion on radio who complained that breasts are seen as a sexual object and that was his argument to why women should never be allowed to breastfeed in public as it invokes wild thoughts in the men’s mind. Munya then added an interesting comment that, patriarchy plays a part in that men are the beneficiaries always, they are ‘protected’ from wild thoughts of being bombarded with ‘breasts’ in public. So go the ‘safety’ of men, breast feeding in public has to be banned. It is never in the interest of women and hungry babies, but men and their egos. A show of control…That just summed it all for me and left me feeling bad and agreeing that breastfeeding wherever as being a civil right that should be respected and not frowned upon.

    A few interesting quotes shared which I think we should all ponder upon…

    Breasts are viewed as sexual objects…how about men who urinate in public alleys everyday, what is it they will be holding while urinating and why ain’t it frowned upon in the same way too
    Why should breasts be covered when breastfeeding, who covers their plate when eating?
    Feeding should not be confined to secret rooms, toilet cubicles and dark alleys. If a grown man can have food in a fast food outlet, what’s to stop that child from being breastfed in the same place…breast feed in open spaces without suffocating the hungry baby.

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    What drives and sustains high levels of violence in a society?
    This question has preoccupied researchers and policymakers for decades. A common thread in a great deal of the research is that early childhood experiences play a vital role. Violent beginnings of a child’s life very often lead to violent behaviour in later life.
    The question is particularly acute in countries with exceptionally high levels of violence

    This is true of South Africa, where the homicide rate of 34 per 100 000 people compares to the homicide rates of Honduras, Colombia and El Salvador, and places the country among the 20 countries globally with the highest rates of homicide.
    Research conducted by the Institute for Security Studies between 2010 and 2015 looked closely at the life histories of 20 men in prison. The intention was to improve understanding of recidivism, to inform sentencing policies, enable the early detection of indicators for repeat offending, and inform rehabilitation programmes and interventions.

    Reducing crime in SA can only be achieved if the country protects children from violence

    The research found that preventing and reducing stubbornly high levels of violence in South Africa can only be achieved if the country focuses on ensuring that children are not exposed to violence or toxic stress at home, and that they are warmly cared for. It is equally important to ensure that children are protected from violence at school.

    The men interviewed in the study had been jailed for multiple violent offences. They came from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and different areas in the country. In all cases, their criminal behaviour was clearly linked to multiple adversity from early in their lives.

    These men are not blameless: the crimes they committed were cruel and often brutal. But their personal, familial and contextual circumstances had a significant impact on their criminal careers.

    They all shared an early and overwhelming sense of loss resulting from feelings of physical and/or emotional separation from parents, carers, professionals and responsible adults. Sometimes this loss was experienced as betrayal. In some cases, this betrayal happened by omission, and in others it was deliberate.

    Their loss was exacerbated by experiences of neglect and abuse at the hands of family members and the staff of state agencies and institutions from whom they were entitled to expect care and support, if not love.

    Ryan, a white man incarcerated for the brutal murder of his brother, started his life as an unwanted child. His mother explained: ‘I became a mother with him at age 17 years. I did not want him, but my mother forced me to keep him. I was very hard on him; I slapped him around a lot. I never took to him. I did not like him.’
    The beatings he experienced at home were repeated at school, where he was bullied daily. His stepfather, the only adult who ever showed him any love and warmth, died when he was 12 – a turning point in his life. From this point, Ryan, who was deeply traumatised by the loss, began a trajectory that resulted in him being jailed; first in a brutal reformatory and later spending more time in prison than out.

    Men who lived in urban areas were more likely to follow a trajectory from petty crime

    There were plenty of warning signs and professionals who could have responded. The educational psychologist who assessed Ryan after the death of his stepfather could have used it as an opportunity to refer the family for further support. That did not happen.

    Zibonele was the son of a farm worker on a racist Free State farm. At the age of two, he was left with an uncle who already had eight children. His life was hard. Like Ryan, he was bullied at school and beaten by his teachers. ‘At school there would be somebody who would like to ill-treat you for the fun of it. It was just like in prison… the older boys wanted to ill-treat me. We ended up fighting horribly. We were later beaten, given seven lashes by a teacher.’

    He had an early experience of brutality and injustice at the hands of the criminal justice system. He and his co-workers were also lashed after eating more mealies for lunch than the farmer thought they deserved.

    Zibonele would go on to strangle and murder three young girls. No one took any notice of the early signs that he was in trouble. Teachers who could have seen the signs were instead complicit in his abuse.

    For most of the men interviewed, their routine use of violence was both necessary for survival and a means to acquire symbols of status. Over time they adopted the hyper-masculine identities that were necessary to secure that status, at least among their peers.

    Once they had dropped out of school, they found peer groups who were equally alienated from adults and structures of authority.

    Several of the men seemed to have had difficulties learning at school. These possibly stemmed from undiagnosed problems that were left unattended. Dropping out of school signaled an untethering from relationships that could have built resilience and increased opportunities to reverse their destructive trajectories.

    Interventions at the family level need to be supported by change at societal level

    All of them experienced stress and trauma from early in their lives, and several turned to alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication. This led not only to more violence, but also to a deepening of their personal crises.

    In their adult lives, two factors in particular seem to have had a significant impact on their criminal trajectories. One was where they lived. The men who lived in urban areas were more likely to follow a trajectory from petty crime, such as shoplifting, to more serious and violent property crime.

    The other was gun ownership.

    Having a gun did not necessarily initiate their criminal trajectories. But it did have an effect on the nature and severity of the crimes they committed. Gun ownership signaled an increase in the violence, and the value of their crimes – they were able to rob more effectively with a gun than without.

    Interventions at the family and relationship level need to be supported by change at societal level, in particular through addressing working and childcare conditions for parents. Accessible and safe early childhood development centres and after-school care facilities are essential, as is parental leave – for both parents – after the birth of a child.

    Parenting programmes have also been shown to reduce stress and improve the relationships between parents and their children. But these need to be pursued alongside other interventions such as improving gun control, and targeted interventions to support individuals and families living in poor, high-violence environments.

    The foundations for violence and criminality are laid between 10 and 20 years before the effects are felt by society. In other words, the way the state and a society respond to children who witness and experience violence, neglect and abuse in 2016 will determine whether we will see the same levels of violence in 2026.

    Photo Courtesy: skepticalob

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    If obesity in South African children continues to increase at the current rate, 3.91 million school children will be overweight or obese by 2025. On world Obesity Day, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSF), together with the World Obesity Federation, calls for decisive action from government, private sector and parents.
    11 October, 2016 was World Obesity Day and the theme was Ending Childhood Obesity: Act today for a healthier future. HSF supports the World Obesity Federation (WOF) in the initiative to stimulate and support practical actions to address obesity.

    The population group that is most vulnerable to this ‘obesogenic’ environment is children. Both children of overweight parents and children subjected to malnutrition during pregnancy or infancy are likely to become obese later in life. Children are brought up in an era of energy dense foods, increasing screen time and sedentary behaviour. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports the fastest growth of obesity in the African region, where childhood overweight and obesity has more than doubled from 1990 to 2013 1.
    Childhood obesity in SA - our girls at greatest risk

    According to the most recent national survey, 14.2% of primary school children are already overweight 2. This prevalence is highest at 30% in girls living in urban areas. Being overweight as an infant increases the risk of being overweight as a child, which in turn increases the risk of being overweight as an adolescent and adult. Results from the Birth to Twenty study in Soweto recently showed that girls who were obese between the ages of 4 – 6 years, were 42 times more likely to be obese as teenagers compared to their normal-weight peers! 3 Clearly interventions should already be addressed at infants and toddlers.
    Cultural beliefs and poor knowledge of the consequences of obesity lulls many parents into inaction. Childhood obesity is not prevented, recognized or treated adequately. New figures from the World Obesity Federation estimate that by 2025, 3.91 million South African school children will be overweight or obese. This will result in 123 000 children with impaired glucose tolerance, 68 000 with overt diabetes, 460 000 with high blood pressure, and 637 000 with first stage fatty liver disease 4.
    The global action plan

    The complexity of the obesity epidemic is often cited to explain the little success in turning the tide and perhaps as an excuse not to make the changes we know are necessary. The 2016 WHO Report on Ending Childhood Obesity clearly outlines a comprehensive action plan. Recommendations include addressing norms, treating children who are already obese, promoting intake of healthy foods and physical activity, improved preconception and pregnancy care, healthier school environments, and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.
    The South African Department of Health have incorporated these guidelines in their own Strategy for the prevention and control in South Africa of obesity framework. Childhood obesity is singled out within this strategy as a specific area of focus, “given the large perceived benefit the interventions may yield”.
    We can end obesity if we act now

    Obesity is not a complex problem, for we have the tools to address it. We can end the childhood obesity epidemic if we act together. The President of the World Obesity Federation, Professor Ian Caterson, calls for decisive action “If governments hope to achieve the WHO target of keeping child obesity at 2010 levels, then the time to act is now.”

    Government action

    In the National Obesity Strategic Framework, Deputy Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaalhla writes “…It is our responsibility to empower people to make informed decisions and to ensure that they have access to healthy food by raising awareness and increasing the availability of effective initiatives and interventions.”
    The Government has shown intent by announcing tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, strategies to increase school sport, and draft legislation to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods to children. Swift and effective implementation of these policies are vital.
    Professor Caterson from the WOF urges governments to act “Introducing tough regulations to protect children from the marketing of unhealthy food, ensuring schools promote healthy eating and physical activity, strengthening planning and building rules to provide safe neighbourhoods, and monitoring the impact of these policies.”

    Private sector and in particular the food industry

    There is no singular solution for obesity, and involvement of all sectors is needed. Food industry and especially fast food restaurants - still largely unregulated -  needs to become part of the solution by producing healthier products and meals that are lower in added sugar, salt and fat, and by partnering with government and civil society to make healthy food choices more affordable.  Collective advertising spend on unhealthy foods and meals are staggering, overpowering education efforts by government and NGOs.  The HSFSA calls on the food industry to realise the vital role they play in South Africa’s obesity epidemic. It is time to make a choice to either help or hinder- practicing responsible marketing of foods aimed at children is a good place to start.

    Parents and caregivers

    Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSFSA implores primary caregivers “Parents have the single biggest influence over their children’s risk of obesity. Mothers should aim for a normal weight before pregnancy, appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Parents should introduce healthy eating habits from six months onwards and lead by example to create an active lifestyle for the whole family.”

    Prof. Naidoo concludes “The HSFSA will continue its efforts to advocate for a healthier environment and create public awareness to prevent obesity as a major risk factor for heart diseases and strokes”. The Heart Mark is one such tool used to make it easier for consumers to make the healthier choice when faced with a variety of options at the supermarket. It helps consumers to identify healthier products that contain less added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, and more fibre compared to other similar products.

    Another initiative parents can advocate for within the schools their children attend is the Tuck Shop Programme, run by the HSFSA. The programme is free and offered to schools around the country. The programme aims to help schools offer healthier food options to their learners, enabling children to make healthier food choices. Schools are guided through the process of adapting their existing food offerings in a manner that is cost-effective and practical. For more information, call 08601 HEART.
    Contact details
    Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
    Nuraan Cader
    Public Relations and Communications Officer
    021-422 1586

    World Obesity Federation:
    Professor Ian Caterson, President, World Obesity Federation.
    Dr Tim Lobstein, Policy Director, World Obesity Federation.
    For more information:
    Twitter: @worldobesity #WorldObesityDay


    • This article was first published in the HSF website.

    Photo Courtesy: hsph.harvard

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    10 Nigerian women duped into giving up their newborns to strangers in houses known as "baby factories"

    A s 16-year-old Maria strained under the anguish of labour in southeastern Nigeria, a midwife repeatedly slapped her across the face - but the real ordeal began minutes after birth.

    "The nurse took my child away to be washed. She never brought her back," the teenager said, gazing down at her feet.
    Maria said she learned her newborn daughter had been given up for adoption for which she received 20,000 naira ($65.79) - the same price as a 50 kilogram bag of rice.

    To read the article titled, “Baby Traffickers Thriving in Nigeria As Recession Bites” click here.

    All Africa

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    A minibus taxi transporting disabled children from home to a special needs school was involved in a collision

    A minibus taxi transporting disabled children from home to a special needs school was involved in a collision that killed two people and left 24 children injured on Tuesday.

    The collision‚ between the minibus and a bakkie‚ happened in the morning on the R25 at Bronkhorstpruit in Gauteng.

    "Two of the disabled children are in a critical condition‚ the rest sustained moderate to minor injuries‚" said Netcare911.

    To read the article titled, “24 disabled children injured‚ one killed in minibus crash” click here.

    Times Live

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    Around 14 million people will need humanitarian help in the former northeast Nigerian stronghold region of Boko Haram

    Around 14 million people will need humanitarian help in the former northeast Nigerian stronghold region of Boko Haram militants and tens of thousands of children will be at risk of dying from famine, a UN official said on Tuesday.

    The Islamist militant group has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million from their homes during a seven-year insurgency in Africa's most populous nation and biggest energy producer.

    Nigerian military forces backed by those from neighbouring states have pushed Boko Haram back to the northeast's vast Sambisa forest in the last few months, enabling aid workers to access areas previously controlled by the jihadists.

    To read the article titled, “14 million in northeast Nigeria may need humanitarian aid in 2017: UN” click here.

    SABC Online

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    Four men believed to be linked to several robberies at the TLC Children’s Home were arrested on Tuesday

    Four men believed to be linked to several robberies at the TLC Children’s Home in Eikenhof, south of Joburg, were arrested on Tuesday after police received information from local residents.

    Last Wednesday, three teenagers were abducted from the children’s home after a hijacked City of Joburg ambulance was used to gain entry onto the property.

    The boys were forced into the ambulance, taken to a remote location, beaten and robbed of their possessions, including their shoes and cellphones.

    Later that evening, police noticed the ambulance driving recklessly, tried to pull it over, and a shootout erupted. The criminals escaped on foot. Two paramedics were injured.

    To read the article titled, “Suspects nabbed after TLC Children's Home robberies” click here.


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    The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign which takes place each year and runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day), also encompassing other important key dates. Widely known as the ‘16 Days Campaign’, it is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. It was originated by the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and is coordinated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership.

    In support of this civil society initiative, each year, the United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women calls for global action to increase worldwide awareness and create opportunities for discussion about challenges and solutions. In 2014, the UNiTE campaign called on governments, UN entities, civil society organisations and individuals across the world to ‘orange their neighbourhoods’ to raise public awareness about the issue of violence against women and girls. As one of the official colours of the UNiTE campaign symbolising a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls, the colour orange was once again a uniting theme throughout all events. The initiative called on all people in all parts of world to take action in their communities, play their part and stand up against violence against women and girls.

    The year 2015 marked the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive road map to gender equality. World leaders met in March 2015 at the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women and in September at the 70th General Assembly to take stock of the progress made and commit to take action to close the gaps that are holding women and girls back. Last year a new Sustainable Development agenda, which for the first time includes specific targets and indicators on ending violence against women, also replaced the Millennium Development Goals.

    • This article first appeared in Every Woman Every Child website.

    Photo Courtesy:

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    • Of all countries surveyed, South Africa’s KFC chicken burger and chips aimed at children had the highest salt content of all kiddies chicken burgers globally, at 2.91g (more than ½ a teaspoon) per meal;
    • South Africa was in the top 10 for the saltiest popular kiddies meals globally;
    • Eight out of ten (134/163) meals contain more than 1g salt per serving –  that’s the maximum recommendation for a meal for a child aged 4-6 years [1];
    • Too much salt in childhood habituates children to the taste of salt, can increase their  blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart failure later in life;

    A new 2015 international survey carried out by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) and supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) investigated the salt content of 387 popular kid’s meal combinations [1]. The survey revealed that children are being served worryingly high amounts of salt by popular fast food chains; with 82 percent (134/163) of meals containing more than 1g of salt per dish. That’s more than a child aged 4-6 years old should be eating in one sitting [3], with some meals containing as much salt as 10 packets of ready salted crisps [2].

    The most worrying finding from a South African perspective is that we feature amongst the top 10 countries for saltiest children’s fast food meals from the 37 countries surveyed globally.  A KFC kiddies chicken burger and small chips contain 2.91g of salt – almost the entire daily salt intake recommended for children aged 4 - 6 years.  South Africa further has the 3rd saltiest McDonald’s chicken nugget meal out of 29 countries (see Table 2). The survey results are extremely relevant in South Africa where fast food intake is on the rise, with an estimated 1 in 3 adolescents consuming take away meals three times a week.

    Table 2: Variation of salt contents of a popular children’s meal around the world - McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets & Fries

    With over half of all meals (53 percent) containing more than half a day’s worth of salt for a 4-6 year old (1.5g), WASH is calling for all food manufacturers to universally reduce the salt content of their products, to help us achieve the global maximum target of 5g salt per adult per day [4] - with children’s meals taking priority - and saving lives! The HSFSA wants to emphasise the importance of this call to action amongst all South African fast food chains, both international and local. With South Africans having one of the highest rates of high blood pressure worldwide and 1 in 10 children already suffering from high blood pressure, we simply cannot afford to allow such high levels of salt in popular children’s meals, says Christelle Crickmore, science and programme development manager, HSFSA.

    The survey, the first of its kind looking at children’s meals sold from popular fast food chains, revealed the saltiest children’s meals around the world, highlighting, not only the excessive amounts of salt in these meals, but also the HUGE variation in salt content of the same meals sold in different countries:

    Table 1: Difference in highest and lowest salt content of popular children’s meals*

    *based on available meal combinations for that country

    “The fact that these fast food chains are able to produce less salty children’s meals in some countries means they can do the same in all countries, and should immediately. All children, regardless of where they are from, should be able to enjoy the occasional meal out, as a treat, without putting their health at risk,” says Clare Farrand, Public Health Nutritionist and International Programme Lead at WASH.

    “The more salt you eat as a child, the more likely you are to have serious health issues in later life.” Says Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairperson of WASH. “This can include high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease. That is why it is vitally important that children do not get used to the taste of salt.”
    Finally, of the 387 children’s foods choices WASH surveyed only 233 had complete nutritional information to allow comparison of salt contents.

    “Lack of nutrition information makes it impossible for parents who are trying to do their very best to make a healthy choice for their children,” says Stephanie Tucker, Nutritionist at WASH. “Therefore all fast-food restaurants should provide nutrition information, so that people can know exactly what is in their food.”

    For more information contact:

    Nuraan Cader
    PR and Communication Officer
    Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
    Tel: 021 422 1586
    Tweet #LessSalt

    About the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in South Africa suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSF, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation.

    The HSFSA aims to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in South Africa and ultimately on the health care system of South Africa. Our mission is to empower people in South Africa to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention.

    For more information, contact the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (43278) or visit  You can also find us on and
    [1]    Survey details

    • Salt per portion and per 100g information was collected from Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway’s own websites from February 2015. In country data was collected from March to June 2015.
    • South African data was collected by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
    • South African data was only available for KFC and McDonald’s with no information available for Burger King and Subway
    • Data table sorted by highest salt per meal (g) in 2015
    • Products translated from native language to English.

    Criteria for selection

    • Must operate within at least 3 regions (for ease of analysis/accessibility of information)
    • Must have at least one widely consumed product
    • must have at least one product/product equivalent that is comparable across countries
    • Must have nutritional information available on website/customer helpline
    • Local variations are avoided where possible for international relevance

    [2]    A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps in the UK contains 0.5g of salt. A KFC Popcorn Nuggets & Fries contains 5.34g salt per serve – 10.68 packets of ready salted crisps worth of salt. 
    [3] Maximum Recommended Salt Intakes

    The daily recommended maximum amount of salt children should eat depends on their age. According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN):'s%20Out%20of%20Home%20Survey/150398.jpg
    [4] World Health Organisation Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children

    For more about the World Action on Salt and Health, refer to

    For more about the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, refer to

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to

    Image Source:

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    US inner-city children suffer ‘war zone’ trauma

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is well known as an issue for returning soldiers. But it is far more pervasive in US inner cities.

    For the BBC's America First? series, Aleem Maqbool is exploring health and social issues where the US, the richest country in the world, does not perform well in international rankings.

    To read the article titled, "US inner-city children suffer ‘war zone’ trauma" click here


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    The wave of reports about abuses perpetrated by aid sector workers in Haiti and elsewhere, including allegations of the abuse of children, should sadly come as little surprise. International actors frequently fall into the gaps between national, regional and international law, and therefore need internal measures to ensure that they adhere to international standards. And of all the players in international interventions, NGOs perhaps need them the most.

    Unlike militaries, intergovernmental organisations or even private sector actors, NGOs frequently have weak or non-existent governance structures. This extends to every part of their organisation, from recruitment all the way up to accountability mechanisms. And when locally employed staff abuse or exploit children in countries where the rule of law is weak or non-existent, there is little the organisations can to do to bring them to justice.

    The solution is not to strictly curtail the aid sector’s international activities; the world would be significantly worse off without the work many of these organisations do. Instead, the sector’s practices and standards have to be brought into line so that fewer abuses occur. Above all, the people who work for NGOs need to understand what to do if they suspect or know that abuse has been perpetrated. And that can only be achieved with tough systemic reforms.

    When it comes to a problem as highly charged as the abuse of vulnerable children, legal restrictions and safeguarding measures are frequently derided as plasters applied to bullet wounds, principally because they do not provide headlines to match the problems they’re designed to solve. But without them, guaranteed long-term improvements are close to impossible.

    Taking responsibility

    Every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that children are safeguarded from harm. They must make sure that their staff, operations, and programmes do no harm to children – that is, that they do not expose children to the risk of harm and abuse. That means they are obliged to report any safety concerns to the authorities in the communities where they’re working.

    But besides abiding by local laws and measures, organisations working internationally also need to observe regional and global ones. While definitions of “child” and “child abuse” differ across nations and cultures, this is not the point. NGOs need to adhere to international standards, and to be clear that the word “children” encompasses anyone under 18, and that “abuse” encompasses all acts that harm children – intentionally or otherwise.

    It is incumbent on NGOs to comprehensively map the laws and safeguarding practices that apply in the countries where they operate. There need to be consultations with staff across the organisation in order to give clear guidance on these issues and how to respond when concerns arise. Yes, child safeguarding measures must be sensitive to the local culture – but the question of who is a child and what constitutes abuse is clearly set out in global and regional standards and frameworks, and it must be applied across the board.

    This means that organisations must fully vet all staff during recruitment, and make safeguarding central to those processes. Staff must be made aware of the international laws and standards to which they are expected to adhere, and the repercussions for not doing so. There must be clear lines of reporting when staff suspect abuse or when allegations are made, including to local authorities where at all possible.

    These might sound like small steps, but this systematic approach has worked in tens of thousands of organisations around the world. When NGO staff know how to recruit safely, all the way through to what is expected of them if they suspect abuse, there are fewer opportunities for abusers to perpetrate crimes. No organisation can ever guarantee it is free from abuse or abusers, but any organisation must do everything it can to minimise risks and maximise accountability.

    The aid sector in general suffers from a culture of opacity and silence, as opposed to transparency and openness. As it tries to change that, there’s plenty to learn from intergovernmental organisations and other international actors who’ve tried to clean up their act, and from organisations such as Keeping Children Safe, who provide safeguarding training. Rather than shouting on the side-lines about what they’ve seen happening elsewhere, everyone in the sector needs to play their part in implementing solutions that actually make a difference.

    This article was first published in The Conversation

    Photo Courtesy: EPA/Jean Jacques Augustin

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    Mother and son arrested in a Sandton drug swop

    Police swooped the on an alleged intricate drug lab operating from a home in the heart of Sandton this morning.

    About 10 police vehicles lined outside the house while forensics officers combed the scene.

    Police had at the time not confirmed details of the raid but sources with intimidate details said police had discovered a marijuana drug lab.

    To read the article titled, "Mother and son arrested in a Sandton drug swop" click here