As a new mother and while I was still in my pregnancy-phase, I spent a lot of time reading about all there is to know about babies. One of these topics is child safety.
By law one is not allowed to leave the hospital by car after you have given birth, unless you have the correct rear-facing baby car seat installed. I read all about the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ and found myself being quite impressed with how they had taken physical science into consideration to make sure one would be traveling safely with one’s baby – because of course, we don’t want any babies to die!
But just as quickly as I found myself impressed with this legislation, the hypocrisy of such a legislation within having ‘child safety’ at its heart; hit me just as fast. At first glance, it gives the ruling structures of the day a caring glow, one that says “I care about your child’s safety and future”. Yet, this legislation is only relevant to the segment of the population that actually owns a car. In South Africa, a substantial segment of the population does not own a car, not because they’re environmentalists, but because they do not have the financial means to acquire one.
These women don’t leave the hospital by car, thoroughly checked by the nurse for a car seat. No, these women carry their babies for miles into rural areas or townships where child safety and well-being are problematic. Are these women asked: “Do you have the means necessary to provide adequate care to your baby?” What law, what legislation is looking after their well-being?
What significance does car seat legislation bear when basic considerations in society are missing towards the well-being and safety of children; and the ability of parents to provide this for them? This ability does not come forward from a mother’s love to her child, but from the mother’s financial capacity. This financial capacity is a necessity to enable the obtainment of those resources and services necessary to ensure a dignified life and upbringing for the child.
The importance of proper childcare is not a trivial matter – as the first years of a child’s life determine to the greatest extent that child’s future physical and mental well-being. These years cannot just receive a ‘do-over’ later and are difficult to remediate.
“The first five years are the most important in a child’s life. A number of critical physical, psychological, cognitive and emotional developmental milestones are rapidly achieved during this period. Indeed the first 1000 days- from pregnancy through a child’s second year of life have been identified as crucial. “Whether a child has experienced chronic nutritional deficiencies and frequent bouts of illness, early in life is best indicated by the infant’s growth, in length and the child’s growth in height. Day-to-day nutritional deficiencies over a period of time lead to diminished, or stunted growth. Once children are stunted, it is difficult for them to catch up in height later on …”*
It is apparent that to have the child’s best interest at heart, is to have proper support available from the beginning. How did car seat legislation come into being? It was noticed that a lot of children were dying in car accidents, which could have been prevented had they been seated differently. Still now, these legislations are updated from time to time according to the flow of information coming in regarding child mortality in car accidents and how they were seated.
So why have we not, after all this time, after witnessing over and over that countless people and children are living in less-than-adequate living conditions and the mortality rates connected to this – adjusted our legislation in such a way that these outcomes are minimized? Isn’t that the most logical step?
Are we not bound to address this issue the same way as we addressed the child safety during transport?
These deaths are preventable and as such it should be our duty to ensure that they are prevented. We get outraged when we read stories about children dying in hospitals, because not all measures were taken to ensure the child’s well-being – negligence it’s called.
We should be outraged about this as well, because it is large-scale negligence.
Providing a Living Income Guaranteed is a logical move forward to address child mortality stemming from any form of lack which could have been prevented if the necessary means had been present in a household.
This is the most pro-active approach within which we as a society can promote child safety and well-being.
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To read the Living Income Guaranteed proposal: