HARARE – Childline Zimbabwe answered over 600 000 calls for help last year, with sexual abuse alerts constituting the bulk of the reports.
The confidential counselling service for children below the age of 18 said the grim statistic should move legislators, parents and government to act.
This comes as child sexual abuse cases dominate the lower courts, reflecting a sordid picture of the state and safety of Zimbabwe’s children.
“To demonstrate the complexity of the need to accelerate the protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for children in Zimbabwe, in 2016, ChildLine Zimbabwe responded to 609 480 calls via the free phone 116,” said Richard Savo, child protection specialist with ChildLine Zimbabwe, adding that sexual and emotional abuse are the most commonly reported forms of abuse affecting 13 to 15-year-olds.
“From these calls, 17 985 child protection cases were reported and provided with psychosocial support to empower as well as promote resilience.”
ChildLine referred some of the reports to Victim-Friendly Unit and the department of Child Welfare and Protection Services in the Health and Child Care ministry.
“Worrisomely, sexual abuse reports constituted the greater chunk of the statistics,” Savo said.
“The gendered dimensions of child protection were also evident with the girl child constituting 69 percent of the child protection reports and 31 percent being child protection concerns for boys.
“The age disaggregation was equally worrisome particularly for the zero to six years and the 13 to 15 years age quintiles,” Savo said.
“Reports on the various forms of violence perpetrated on children ranged from sexual violence, neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, child marriages, bullying, and exposure to domestic violence among others.
“From these statistics, it is indeed imperative that the country needs serious investment in child protection in order to safeguard the future of the children of Zimbabwe.”
Last year’s 609 480 calls were a slight decrease from the 612 318 calls answered in 2015.
Sexual abuse again ranked as the most pertinent issue in the reports made, with the form of abuse making up 34 percent of that year’s reported cases.
In 2015, 65 percent of reports received were about girls.
“Reports of abuse received about girls have remained consistently higher than those received about boys over the years,” ChildLine said.