Millennium Development Goals (MDG): update by Social Development Department; Committee Reports on SAHRC Report on investigation of 2008 violence & NDA 2009/10 Annual Report

Social Development

18 April 2011
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development gave a detailed background on the Millennium Development Goals and their roots in the United Nations Millennium Summit of 2000 and explained the time period the goals were bound to. Though the presentation described all eight of the Millennium Development Goals it focused  on those relevant to the Social Development portfolio: These were Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger, Achieving Universal Primary Education, Promoting Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. These were presented in detail with figures and facts related to South Africa’s work with them.

The Committee asked question on the impact of Goal 6, the decrease in HIV/AIDS numbers, the breakdown of Early Childhood Development (ECD) numbers, the absence of Goal 8 reporting, the measurement used for poverty, child mortality rates, sharing of new information, gender inequality in schools, rural areas, malnutrition, aid for people on retroviral drugs (ARV) or who were disabled or had chronic diseases, gender mutilation, maternal health and the representivity of the statistics.

The Committee went through the two outstanding reports, making minor adjustments, and adopted them.

Meeting report

Millennium Development Goals: Department of Social Development (DSD) Progress Report
Mr Vusi Madonsela, DSD Director General, provided a thorough background on the Millennium Development Goals and the challenges faced in fulfilling them. The Millennium Declaration promoted basic human rights such as the right to education, health, water, security, and shelter. The briefing gave a detailed explanation of the different goals, though the main focus was on the goals that South Africa seemed close to completing. In more detail the presentation included the following:
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) act as guidelines and indicators for measuring levels of development. Reference period for MDGs was 1990 – 2015. The DSD participated in and led Sector Working Group 1, which focused on Goal 1, Eradicate extreme Poverty and Hunger, although the Department’s mandate enabled it to contribute to other goals, particularly Goals 2, 3 and 6, The MDG process had its roots in the United Nations Millennium Summit held in 2000, where world leaders agreed on working to achieve eight critical economic and social development priorities by 2015.

▪ Millennium Development Goals.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education, Goal 3: Promote gender equity and empower women, Goal 4: Reduce child mortality, Goal 5: Improve maternal health, Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability and Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development.

With respect to the Country Report, a number of challenges conspired to prevent South Africa meeting the goals, and these include amongst others: High levels of income disparity, Structural unemployment, the impact of HIV and AIDS, the recent global economic recession.

▪ Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger.
Absolute Poverty: The proportion of people living in absolute poverty as measured by the threshold of $1 to $2.50 a day had declined, South Africa had effectively more than halved the population living below the poverty line of $1 a day from 11.3% in 2000 to 5% in 2006, This suggests that South Africa had met MDG Goal 1. The poverty gap ratio declined from 3.3 in 2000 to 1.1 in 2006 at the $1 per person per day threshold.

▪ Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Early Childhood Development: Although indicators for Goal 2 did not include children in the 0-4 age cohort, ECD was widely believed to provide a firm foundation for life-long learning, which was a key element of a dynamic, literate, and knowledge based society. Impact of the Child Support Grant: according to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey report 2003-2007 released in July 2009, the most notable impact of the expansion of the CSG was that children benefiting from the grant were likely to go to school. In 2007, the percentage of low income households which receive any kind of grant and were sending their children aged 5-19 years to school increased from 73% in 2003 to 81% in 2007. Similarly, the attendance ratio for individuals aged 5-19 was higher in households who receive grants than those who did not receive them.

▪ Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Parity in the School System: There were more girls than boys in both secondary and tertiary education. Women share of non-agricultural wage employment remains below half. Parity in Political Life: Proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament, increased from 25% in 1994 to 44% in 2009.

▪ Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
Evidence suggested that the spread of HIV prevalence in South Africa may have stabilised and had declined among the 15-24 age cohort since 2005. If this trend continued, the target with respect to the reduction of HIV infections in 5-24 year age cohort was likely to be met by 2015. This could be attributed to a number of HIV prevention programmes which include among others a number of awareness and advocacy programmes run by the Department of Social Development.
(See document for details).

Ms T Kenye (ANC) said that she was concerned about the impact of Goal 6. She wondered if they could meet this goal by 2015. She also wondered if child support grants would help to reduce child mortality rates. Were mothers with AIDS getting access to grants?

Ms H Lamoela (DA) would like to see some more information supporting their claim that HIV/AIDS numbers were decreasing. She would also have liked to have seen some breakdown of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) numbers on slide 14.

Director General Madonsela said that the numbers could be provided with some help from the Department of Health.

Mr Wiseman Magasela, Deputy Director General: Social Policy, said that when combating HIV/AIDS, one had to realise that the spread, prevalence, even its infection, was a combination of different factors, cultural, social and economic. The Department had experienced that in order to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic the country needed to address gender equality and issues of power between men and women. On the AIDS numbers, there were studies that had been going on for some time now, done mainly by the Department of Health. This Demographic Health Survey measured things like HIV infection, TB and the like. This was something the country had been doing for such a long time that they had great confidence in their numbers. The work done by the Human Sciences Research Council pointed towards a stabilisation of rates and even a decline in certain age cohorts.

The Chairperson commented that the presentation did not touch on all the Millennium Development Goals. Goal 8 was completely missing and much of the focus seemed to be on Goal 1, the Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger. The presentation seemed tailored to fit the Department like a glove in terms of their mandate. She went on to say that if they could not give any explanation on this now or tell them why Goal 8 was missing she would like the Department to make that information available to them at a later stage. She was however quite happy about what they had reported on Goal 6, especially in combating Malaria. They should also take heart in the reduction of the HIV/AIDS infection rate. She believed that with Goal 7, Ensuring Environmental Sustainability, every department could play a role, even if it was in a small way. She then referred to slide seven on Goal 1, and asked should not the research actually confirm that they had met the MDG? She would also like them to explain why they had used the different units of measuring poverty in terms of US Dollars. Would the upcoming census use the same measures? And if so, would that provide them with new data? On the topic of child mortality rates, she asked if they could possible share any new information they had garnered since 2009.

DG Madonsela said that as far as figures went, they could not at the moment give them more than indirect references to grants and numbers, they could not go into specifics. Further he said that they were aiming to overcome all the challenges even if they were focusing more on some and less on others in the presentation.

DDG Magasela said that on the poverty line numbers they had used what they called the food-poverty line which was basically such utter destitution represented by people going to bed without having eaten food and who did not know from where their next meal would come. This was however not universal, it was country specific. Each country constructed their own food poverty-line. So it represented utter destitution, anyone below that could barely, barely survive. The use of one US Dollar a day as a standard was done so for purposes of international measurement. The increase in that number represented a global rise in standards of living.

Chief Director:
Monitoring and Evaluation, Ms Thilde Stevens, said that she would like to contribute a little on Goal 8, Developing a global partnership for development. The Department was participating in shaping the global agenda for development; they had co-authored documents that stipulated the role of the international community in assisting in development in Africa. And the goals they had been working on were related to the MDG goals, both in Africa and in South Africa itself. South Africa was leading on the international stage in pushing for a more developmental oriented role in achieving the MDGs in Africa. They were also engaged in bilateral deals with other countries such as Brazil, were they had learned from them on how they dealt with their issues of extreme hunger. She also wanted to mention that on environmental sustainability one had to remember that it was always the poor that were the most severely affected by environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources. 

Ms Kenye asked what measures they had in place to ensure that both genders were equally represented in schools as far as numbers went. She wondered also if their programmes included the rural areas as they always seemed to be left behind.

Ms Sizakele Shongwe, Director: Gender, said that in terms of gender inequality one had first to remember that women were actually in the majority in South Africa. Further, that cultural barriers against sending girls to school had also started to erode, causing more girls to be represented in classrooms. There were also Department programmes in place to deal with the issues of gender and its representation in places like schools.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) asked what they did to combat malnutrition and if they could speak something about the status of Polio in South Africa.

DDG Magasela replied that reverse analysis was still being done on the issue of malnutrition. He did say however that there were still many children who suffered from malnutrition and related illnesses.

Ms N Gcume (ANC) asked how much they did for those on anti retroviral drugs (ARV) or who were disabled or had chronic diseases but did not get the grants. Did they still get health treatment if it was needed?

DG Madonsela replied that the grants they gave were meant as short term relief for people in distress who did not necessarily qualify for or had access to any other type of social relief. There were child grants that lasted till the age of 18 and social relief that stayed with people if they were disabled or in need. And these relief programmes worked for everyone, irrespective of if they lived in rural areas. In fact the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) had made significant improvements when it came to processing applications for grants. It was now a procedure that could take only a few days compared to a couple of weeks. This was a significant improvement.

The Chairperson asked if the Department was engaging with the immigrant communities that continued to practise ‘female cutting’. And if so, were they working to get these communities to halt this practice in South Africa.

DDG Shongwe replied that genital mutilation or ‘female cutting’ was a very difficult to deal with, but things were being done. The UN had a campaign going against genital mutilation. The countries where this was practised had been identified, and community based operations were put in place to try and educate men to understand that a woman did not have to be cut to be a woman one could marry. There was also a whole number of ways they engaged with people and traditional leaders. Now this would be a little difficult to do in South Africa as they did not posses that kind of support system. However the Departments of Health and Social Development were working together to see what could be done to address genital mutilation. There was a lack of real research being done on genital mutilation as well, and that needed to be remedied. 

Ms Lamoela asked why maternal health had not been focused on before child mortality as she believed one had very much to do with the other. She would also to know how much of the statistics they presented came from rural and remote areas. 

DG Madonsela replied he did not have figures for what part of the statistics represented people in rural versus urban areas, but they could make that available. Issues of maternal health were fundamental to them. With their grants they indirectly affected it by enabling people to have access to physicians and facilities. That was not just mothers and children, but all people in distress. Their grants were targeted specifically at people who would not get access to other relief. Further, there was such a need for this that they had rolled out the programme to such an extent that people could now come and claim benefits without identification documents, they just needed to show that they were in distress. 

DDG Magasela said that the statistics included people from the rural areas. They utilised something which was called a sampling frame which was representative of the entire country. It was a nationally representative sample that was constantly done and improved upon.

Chief Director Ms Thilde Stevens [inaudible]

DDG Magasela said that when it came to cooperation, the department that could give them the best picture was the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. But their Department was doing some things themselves, one was engaging in enhanced engagement with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This basically meant they were learning best practice from the OECD in matters such as statistics collection, how to analyse statistics and even how to look at estimations. They were also, through the OECD, going to other countries to look at how they dealt with unemployment, to see if South Africa could learn from this. They were also very active in the United Nations and its commissions; one such especially was the Commission of Social Development. Those functioned as platforms to discuss global development matters. They were working with partners in development such as the UK, Japan and Canada.

DG Madonsela noted that all the information they had shared in the meeting was in fact already made available, so they had chosen to report on the issues most relevant to their Department. Perhaps in future reports they could include the information in its entirety, but he warned that would be a massive undertaking. It might be helpful for them in the future to invite representatives from the Department of Health to get a fuller picture of the progress that had been made.

The Chairperson thanked the DG and said that in future he should provide input on the Committee’s role in meeting the MDG goals. The Committee hoped to make this a six-monthly regular engagement.

Committee Report on SAHRC Report on investigation of 2008 violence
The Committee went through the Report. The Chairperson added that what seemed to be missing from the conclusion of the report was something on how the AU and SADC served to politically stabilise Africa, and this should be emphasised in the report. Wording on page 4 about the population policy and its effects on social cohesion, was rephrased. The Report was then adopted.

Committee Report on National Development Agency 2009/10 Annual Report
The Committee requested that the NDA send the outstanding documents and reports the Committee had requested. The Report was then adopted.

Committee Programme
The Chairperson told the Committee that she had met with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and they had discussed topics of children rights and equity. UNICEF could also provide training for the Committee in how to interact and provide oversight on the rights of children in terms of their oversight work.

Ms Lamoela asked if they could invite the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

The Chairperson said this could be discussed. She reminded them of the UNICEF study tour. She said that the UNICEF representative had told them when they went on oversight trips they should always make an effort to listen to children separate from their minders. This would better reflect on the needs of the children and enhance their understanding of the institutions. 

Ms Lamoela asked if they were allowed to speak to the children alone.

The Chairperson said that they were allowed to do that. As Members of Parliament their powers were enshrined in the Constitution. They should think about meeting with LoveLife on issues of children when they came back.

The meeting was adjourned.


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