In a sunny country like South Africa, it’s almost inconceivable that children should suffer from rickets. It’s a weakening of bones that’s usually caused by a vitamin D deficiency – and since the sun helps the body produce vitamin D, children in South Africa should have plenty of vitamin D.
“And yet children living in the city of Jo’burg were getting rickets. It turns out they were too scared to play outside because of crime and drug dealers,” says JCW assistant director Carol Bews.
In 2008, a sunny solution fell into our laps. The Johannesburg Development Agency gave JCW access to a large outdoor space complete with an old army drill hall; and a German sponsor, Terre des Hommes, agreed to fund a play coordinator.
The Inner City Project was born and children reveled in the games and life skills lessons that the coordinators planned for them.
But the area has now become terribly congested. “The Noord Street Taxi Rank started encroaching on the space. They’ve taken away most of the children’s outdoor play space. The taxi drivers threaten the children with violence if a ball hits their taxis – and the children have no doubt that the drivers will follow through with their threats,” Carol says.
Unless authorities are willing to step in and preserve this area, we fear the days of inner city children playing happily in the sun are numbered.