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Improving life outcomes for adolescents across Africa

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Photo by Shelagh Murphy from Pexels

By 2050, Africa will be home to half a billion teenagers. While these young people have a huge potential to help shape the future of the continent, many still live in poverty and precarity. The Accelerating Achievement for Africa’s Adolescents Hub (Accelerate Hub) is a five-year research programme that was set up to find ways to improve outcomes for African youth, and to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.

The Hub is led by the University of Cape Town and Oxford University, and works in collaboration with academic institutions, policy makers and practitioners across Africa and globally. The Accelerate Hub also engages adolescents through Teen Advisory Groups – helping to identify young people’s concerns and ensure that their views inform research priorities and support.

The Hub works to identify the combination of services that will be most cost-effective for governments to invest in, in order to be able to reach several sustainable development goals and targets at the same time. “We have been lucky to work for many years with governments across Africa, UN agencies and donors,” says Professor Lucie Cluver, one of the Accelerate Hub leads. “The Accelerate Hub aims to identify what simple combinations of services are cost-effective to improve health, education, employment, and safety. Africa’s adolescents deserve the best evidence and the best opportunities.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, in anticipation of the massive increases in violence against children globally, Accerlate Hub worked with the World Health Organization to identify the best ways to reduce violence. It found that food security and good parenting are the strongest safeguards against sexual violence and transactional sexual exploitation, among other forms of violence. These findings have been featured as a case study in the World Health Organization (WHO) 2020 Global Status Report on Violence Against Children, and have also contributed to preventing family and online violence against children and adolescents through evidence-based Covid-19 parenting support to over 190 million families globally.

The Hub’s work has also accelerated efforts to roll out social protection programmes to reduce extreme poverty, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown, as well as mitigating associated risks such as violence, sexual exploitation, and school dropout. To this end, it developed policy briefs for the Presidency of South Africa on the design of relief measures (cash and food parcels) to cushion households from the economic impacts of the lockdown. As a result, the South African Government shifted its approach from food parcels to cash grants. The government also temporarily increased cash grants paid to 13 million people, including grants paid to caregivers of children, and created a new temporary grant for five million unemployed adults for six months.

Otherwise, the Hub’s research on the impact of the Ethiopian Health Extension Programme, which shows positive impacts on girls’ education and reducing child marriage, has been shared with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, who is developing a health strategy for adolescents. The Hub has also just published a paper in the Lancet and co-led a multi-agency report with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Bank, WHO, and USAID, that models numbers of children orphaned by Covid-19. It recommends responses that protect orphaned children from physical and sexual violence, by avoiding institutionalisation, and providing economic and parenting support.

The Hub is also working with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and with UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Office to identify services that can prevent sexual violence and reduce HIV infection risks for adolescent girls across key countries in Eastern, Southern and Western Africa. “There is tremendous energy and partner engagement behind this work,” says Brigette De Lay, director of Oak’s Prevent CSA programme. “I am excited about this initiative, as it has the potential to lift our issue into the mainstream, and more strongly link prevention of child sexual abuse to other well-funded areas, such as education and HIV/AIDS.” 

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of innovative research and promising solutions, that supports efforts to build the evidence base for effective and scalable solutions. For more information about the Accelerate Hub, follow it on Twitter or see the Hub Highlights report.

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