South Africa

It’s the richest country in Africa, but the level of need is enormous. In South Africa, where inequality is unmistakable from the swimming pools of the rich and the outdoor latrines of the poor, 65% of children live in poverty. We've worked in South Africa since 1997, helping local communities to protect children who don’t have the care they need.  

Key facts

  • More than 5 million South Africans are HIV-positive – the highest number in any country in the world. 

  • More than 60% of under-five deaths are associated with malnutrition – South Africa is way off target in reaching MDGs 4 and 5.

The challenges

Poverty, disease and unequal access to basic and life-saving services are killing South Africa’s children.  

Children living in poverty are less likely to have enough to eat or go to school. When they’re ill, they’re unlikely to get medical treatment. They live in houses without running water or toilets, and they’re more likely to be abused or neglected. 

Enormous class sizes coupled with a history of harsh discipline makes for a poor-quality education for many children. 

Despite South Africa’s free and comprehensive public health system, the number of stillbirths is high and too many children and mothers die needlessly.

What we’ve achieved

Despite the immense challenges, we’ve helped South Africa’s children in significant, lasting ways:

A new model of education

We’ve worked with more than 300 schools in the last five years, improving the quality of education for thousands of children by training teachers and parents.

Since 2005 we’ve been at the forefront of innovation in communities and schools, helping vulnerable learners. Our Caring Schools programme reaches more than 45,000 children a year with a model that’s so successful the government is piloting it in 30 schools in the Free State.

A voice for children

At the highest levels of policy-making, we're successfully pressing for children’s interests. We convene the 100-member Caring Schools Network, an organisation with branches in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces and a powerful voice in national advocacy.

We also co-lead the United Nation’s education in emergencies cluster for South Africa. 


Our HIV programmes reach around 26,000 children a month.

Nearly 2 million children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. In rural Qwa Qwa, we’ve identified 80,000 children living with siblings and no parents, or in need of help. 

Agents of change

We’ve set up 140 children’s committees to give children a voice in their communities. Some are now meeting provincial governments, scrutinising budget allocations to make sure that children’s needs are included, and advising the police on child protection.

We train local municipalities to ensure that children’s rights are included in local development plans.

What’s urgent now  

South Africa is not on track to achieve either Millennium Goal 4 or 5, cutting child and maternal mortality. Our aim is to change this trajectory.

In rural areas, we’re training midwives, health workers, and home-based carers, and working with provincial and national governments to strengthen the health systems, particularly in Limpopo.  

In a country where rape and other sexual violence often takes place in schools, we’re making schools safer for girls.

You can help

£5 can provide seeds, fertiliser and tools so a family can grow their own nutritious food.

£15 can provide a food basket to feed a family for a month.

£45 can provide a new school uniform, bag, pens and pencils for a child so they can go to school.

Donate now