Fortunate Gora Correspondent
Childline Zimbabwe has recorded close to 700 cases of different forms of child abuse from Mashonaland West in the first six months of this year.
Most of the cases involve sexual abuse.
In an interview yesterday, Childline monitoring, evaluation and research coordinator Mrs Memory Mhlanga said besides sexual abuse, children also complained of neglect and other forms of physical abuse.
“From the period of January to June, we received 387 cases of children facing different forms of abuse in Makonde, Zvimba, Chegutu and Mhondoro-Ngezi via our drop-in platform while 312 cases were recorded through our helpline,” she said.
Mrs Mhlanga said sexual abuse was more prevalent as it constituted 51 percent of the reported cases followed by physical abuse with 14 percent while neglect contributed 10 percent.
She said statistics showed that the girl child was the most affected and urged all children facing abuse and not able to visit Childline offices to dial on the organisation’s Helpline number — 116. “The line 116 is not a toll free, it is a free phone, and neither, the caller nor the receiver is billed for the calls unlike with a toll free line.
“The 116 free phone is effective because callers can access the line from all service providers in Zimbabwe except one,’’ she said.
Mrs Mhlanga said the helpline was also effective because each reported case was recorded, documented and followed up by Childline social workers through their drop in centres to ensure that the child in question had been assisted.
She also said the 116 free phone was also a very safe, confidential and child friendly platform favoured by many.
“Findings from a study done in 2017 by Childline, indicated that 60 percent of children who interact with Child-line at any given time prefer to use 116 in reporting cases and accessing child protection information,” she said.
Mrs Mhlanga said the 116 helpline is linked to online platforms such as WhatsApp, a mobile application that was popular with adolescent children.
She said after a case has been reported and follow ups done, an abused child can continue to call Childline for continuous counselling, which is essential for the child to heal.
Childline, she however, added, did not deal with offenders, but only report to the Zimbabwe Republic of Police.
Meanwhile, the organisation is facing resource constraints to follow up on helpline reports.
“We are facing challenges on resource limitation to ensure that all cases reported are followed up on. Childline operates one drop-in centre in the province to follow up on helpline reports and this limits response to just Chinhoyi and Zvimba,” she said.
Government has taken a strong stance against child abuse with many perpetrators facing prosecution and possible jailing although cases of sexual abuse continue to rise unabated.