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We need to act now for the sake of our children

Article by Tanya Doherty, Asha George and Mark Tomlinson originally published in the Journalist

This article reviews the state of well-being of South Africa’s children across a number of indices, including heath, education and preparedness for the impact of global warming. Despite South Africa being a signatory to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals we are failing when it comes to our children.

Some say that this is the best time to be alive given the remarkable progress made in health and well-being since 1990. However, we face new challenges that threaten the progress of the past two decades: The Covid-19 pandemic, the unprecedented dangers from climate disruption and unregulated commercial actors. The WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission “A Future for the World’s Children” is an urgent clarion call to redefine how we think and advocate for children and young people.

The Commission places children and young people at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a strategic opportunity to catalyse progress across multiple fronts. After all, healthy children living in an enabling environment that allows them to meet their developmental potential is the greatest resource a country has.

In galvanizing action to secure a better future for children and young people, the Commission co-chaired by Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Administrator of the UN Development Programme, and Dr Awa Coll-Seck, Minister of State in Senegal, calls attention to several critical areas with suggested actions for countries. As commissioners from South Africa, we provide some examples of how South Africa performed.

The commission developed a new “flourishing index” which assessed children’s health, education, growth and experiences of violence. It also created a sustainability index which ranked countries based on their excess greenhouse gas emissions. Strikingly, no country did well on sustainability, flourishing and the absence of inequity (

All three are essential for securing the future of children and young people. The interactive map in the report shows that the poorest countries have a long way to go towards enabling children to live healthy lives, but wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, which does not adhere to country borders,  and is on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster.

Measuring child flourishing and future environmental threats

If we revert to business as usual post-Covid-19 there is a 93% chance that global warming will exceed 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, with catastrophic consequences. Stopping greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible is essential to ensure a liveable planet for generations to come. South Africa stands out as a unique example of a country that performed poorly across both metrics (child flourishing and sustainability), ranking 127th in the world for child flourishing measures– while being a large emitter of CO2 (ranking 150th out of 180 countries) – on track to exceed its 2030 CO2 target by 197%.

Read the full article in the Journalist here:

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