Over the past 25 years Red Cross Children’s Hospital (RXH) has seen an increase in the number and severity of child abuse cases – with approximately 50 new cases each month in 2019. What we see at RXH is simply the tip of the iceberg with 99% of children in the Birth to Twenty Study either witnessing or experiencing violence in their home, school or community.
The Advocacy Committee, in collaboration with the Social Work Department, Children’s Institute, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, RX Radio, the Children’s Hospital Trust and Trauma Advocacy Group therefore initiated the Have a heart campaign to raise awareness and to encourage health professionals to look, listen, report and support children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
The campaign was launched at an advocacy symposium ahead of Child Protection Week in May 2019 where Carla Brown and Lori Lake drew on Red Cross data to describe the nature and extent of violence against children in South Africa and called for a greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention in response to early warning signs.
The beautiful Have a heartposters designed by Angela and Sean MacPherson were then distributed to all wards and outpatient clinics in order to stimulate a conversation about the burden of child abuse in the communities we serve, and to encourage people both within and outside the hospital to take action and protect children from harm.
A solution-focused approach
A second advocacy symposium in November brought together a range of child protection experts to showcase a series of projects working to prevent violence:
Don Pinnock, author of Gang Town helped deepen our understanding of the drivers of violence in Cape Town,
Michael Krause shared the work that the Violence Prevention Urban Upgrading are doing to create safer communities
Cathy Ward described the key features of the successful Sinovuyo Parenting Programme, and
Clare van der Westerhuizen describe how they use admissions to trauma units as a ‘teachable moment’ to raise awareness about alcohol-related harm.