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IRIN Africa | Southern Africa | ZIMBABWE | ZIMBABWE: More children abused as situation worsens | Children-Democracy-Economy-Gender issues-HIV AIDS-Human Rights-Peace Security | News Items
Tuesday 21 February 2006
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ZIMBABWE: More children abused as situation worsens

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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©  UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

Zimbabwe has more than a million orphans

JOHANNESBURG, 23 Jan 2006 (IRIN/PLUSNEWS) - The worsening humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is making children more vulnerable to abuse, according to child rights NGOs.

"For instance, because of the hike in schools fees many children are visiting schools [trying to negotiate payment] - it makes them more vulnerable at the hands of teachers who exploit them," said Witness Chikoko, acting director of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect.

Staff at a boarding primary school near Marondera outside the capital, Harare, were recently charged with abusing 52 girls, while 14 primary school girls were also allegedly abused by staff members at a school in the capital.

The Girl Child Network (GCN), an NGO working in 32 of Zimbabwe's 58 districts, said it had recorded an average of 700 rape cases of girls aged up to 16 every month in 2005 - more than 8,000 cases. According to GCN about 93 percent of the children raped in Zimbabwe are girls and seven percent boys.

"The numbers are high because more girls are reporting rape cases," said Betty Makoni, GCN's founder and director, but admitted that the country has a high incidence of sexual abuse.

"It is a combination of factors: the large number of AIDS orphans; increasing poverty, which has forced girls to take up risky professions such as sex work and forced marriages."

About half the girls raped were from child-headed households, she added. Zimbabwe has one of the highest levels of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa, which has left one in five children orphaned.

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokesman James Elder said the organisation was "horrified" at the high incidence of sexual abuse among children, but noted that the country had more than a million orphaned children, which made a large vulnerable population.

UNICEF was currently stepping up its work with communities, educating them to spot the signs of child abuse and encouraging them to "tenaciously protect their children by establishing and supporting functional child protection committees, where children themselves are represented," said Elder.

"Community leaders, teachers, mums and dads - these people are the front line in the fight against child abuse," said UNICEF's head of child protection in Zimbabwe, Jose Bergua. "If perpetrators are going to be stopped, if children are going to have the confidence to speak out against these evils, then authority figures need to make it patently clear that child abuse in their communities will not be stomached - silence on this issue shelters the perpetrators and is a crime against children."

Zimbabwe is going through a severe economic crisis and facing serious food shortages as a result of recurring poor harvests and the government's fast-track land redistribution programme, which began in 2000 and has disrupted agricultural production and slashed export earnings.


 Theme(s) Children-Democracy-Economy-Gender issues-HIV AIDS-Human Rights-Peace Security
Other recent ZIMBABWE reports:

Mugabe delivers broadside to neighbours,  21/Feb/06

Tsvangirai loses election appeal as opposition woes mount,  15/Feb/06

"Bread and Roses" protestors held,  14/Feb/06

Fuel voucher system scrapped, queues form again at pumps,  13/Feb/06

Floods drown hope for better harvest,  9/Feb/06

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