Child poverty higher than adult poverty

In line with the SDGs, Botswana developmental initiatives, such the National Development Plan 11, Vision 2036 and the BPEPS, articulate the need to eradicate multidimensional poverty, including multidimensional child poverty.

Child poverty higher than adult poverty

Botswana respects the global significance of child poverty as articulated in the United Nations(UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with particular reference to SDG target 1.2 which makes specific reference to “reducing at least half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions” by 2030 (UN 2015). In line with the SDGs, Botswana developmental initiatives, such the National Development Plan 11, Vision 2036 and the BPEPS, articulate the need to eradicate multidimensional poverty, including multidimensional child poverty. Botswana ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which obligates it to meet and eliminate child poverty.

The country enjoys an upper-middle-income status as supported by its outstanding and swift economic growth for most of its post-independence period. Its rapid economic growth facilitated accumulation of resources by the government which allowed it to reduce poverty rates. For example, the monetary poverty rates, based on national poverty lines, reduced from 59 percent in 1985/1986 to 16.3 percent in 2015/2016, according to Standard & Poor. It is regrettable that as impressive as these figures may appear, child poverty incidence is higher than it is for adults. Statistics Botswana recorded in 2018 that child poverty stood at 20.1 percent compared to 13.8 percent for adults.

Botswana unfortunately, in spite of experiencing pro-poor economic growth, is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with a Gini coefficient of 52.2 in 2015/16. It is estimated that 19 percent of its population live below the poverty line. Children aged 0-14 years accounted for 43 percent of the total poor in 2015/16. What is alarming is that according to Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA), 63 per cent of the country’s children experience multidimensional poverty. It is quite disturbing that malnutrition and maternal mortality rates remain at high levels in Botswana with chronic malnutrition (stunting) and wasting standing at 30 percent and 11.6 percent in 2013, while the maternal mortality rate was 147/100,000 live births in 2012 (SB 2016). Another important observation by the World Bank in 2015 is that Botswana’s enrolment rates have been consistently below those of other upper-middle-income countries, such as Algeria, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa. Botswana’s children who are under the age of 15 constitute 30 percent of the population and the median age of the entire population is 25 years. The average Motswana woman starts having children at the age of 19 and has 2 to 4 children during her lifetime.

There is a conflict that cannot be explained in simple terms. Government spending on social services has historically been high (35-40 per cent of GDP), with over one-third of fiscal spending devoted to child-focused priority areas (health, primary and secondary education, and social assistance). According to the World Bank in Botswana, living conditions have improved for Batswana, and poverty has fallen significantly. The share of the population living on less than $1.90 a day at the 2011 Purchasing Power Parity declined steadily from 29.8 percent to 18.2 percent between 2002–03 and 2009–10, and to 16.1 percent in 2015-16 all due to increased agricultural incomes, including subsidies, and demographic changes.