Child abuse cases on increase

HARARE - One in every four children counselled by a leading child rights group last year has been sexually abused.

Childline said it counselled 8 136 children in 2012 and 62 percent of the calls came from the girl child.

The group said 25 percent of the cases showed that the children would have been sexually abused.

These alarming statistics were revealed during a ceremony where the organisation, which works with children who have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused, was receiving a donation from the Japanese Embassy in Harare yesterday.

The donation, worth $86 254, will be used to help Childline construct a call centre in Harare as well as drop-in centres in Chiredzi, Mutasa and Mutare.

Childline, which was established in 1997, offers free counselling to children who contact the organisation through call centres using the toll free number 116.

Speaking at the ceremony, Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe Yonezo Fukuda said he was concerned with the increase in child abuse cases.

He hoped the grant would go a long way in ensuring that children enjoy their fundamental human rights.

“I hope it will help much more for your activities. I understand that the economic situation is still a problem in Zimbabwe but we hope that our colleagues will also assist you too,” Fukuda said.

Childline board of trustees’ chair Constance Mutunhu said she was delighted by the donation as it will be used to assist the organisation in improving its operations.

“This fund will enable Childline to expand its current helpline services to answer more calls, as well as to keep up with developments in technology by providing an online counselling service and sms counselling,” Mutunhu said.

“Space will be created for the department of Social Services at the helpline so that they can receive reports of child abuse immediately, and enable them to respond and provide child protection services timely to achieve the best outcome for the child. This is similar to the Kenyan system and they have had great success with this approach,” Mutunhu said.

The donation comes at a time when Childline says it has since recorded an increase in the number of calls from distressed children over the past three years.

In 2010 they answered 277 093 calls and the number almost doubled in 2011 with 514 625 calls. In 2012, Childline received 661 326 calls.

Mutunhu said the donation will go a long way in establishing standalone drop-in centres in areas they previously could not reach.

“The establishment of standalone drop-in centres independent from other non-governmental organisations will increase the visibility, the direct access, especially for children with no access to cellphones, with an average of 100 children walking into the drop in centres per month and child friendly environment and service,” she said.

Childline’s director Tara Miller said the grant would enable her organisation to meet the increasing demand for child protection.

“It will be used for the construction of a call centre for children in Harare as well as for the construction of drop in centres in Chiredzi, Mutasa and Mutare, where child abuse is more rampant than in urban centres,” she said. - Thelma Chikwanha, Features Editor


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