BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/LORRAINE MUROMO

CHILD rights lobby group, Childline Zimbabwe, has raised concern over the increase in distress calls from minors, from 50 000 monthly to over 75 000 since the national lockdown came into effect on March 30 this year.

Speaking to NewsDay, Childline spokesperson Butler Nhepure said the spike in reports of sexual and physical abuse of minors was worrying.

“We receive calls through our 116 call centre during the lockdown period. The calls vary from children seeking information about COVID-19 to those reporting cases of child abuse,” he said.

“The increases are attributed to various issues that include children who are under lockdown with perpetrators, thereby increasing the frequency of abuse.

“Parents as well are spending a lot of time with their children now and noticing abuse which might have been hidden for some time because they are not at home as often.”

Before lockdown, Childline received a monthly average of 50 000 calls. In May, the figure rose to 75 681 calls and 72 152 for June.

In June, Childline responded to 633 cases with 321 being sexual abuse cases.

The lockdown has also triggered an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) in Shamva township, Mashonaland Central province with hunger being the major source of conflict.

Most families in the town who relied on informal jobs now struggle to put food on the table.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches’ Shamwa Ecumenical Fellowship leader Desmond Chengetai Mundondo told NewsDay during a Zoom meeting that although GBV cases were common in the mining town, there had been a sharp increase since the lockdown came into effect.

“GBV cases are very common this side, but there was a spike since the lockdown was imposed as evidenced by the number of counselling sessions I conducted from January to March (51) and April to July (192). In April, I conducted 36, May (43), June (49), three of which were premarital counselling and in July I had 67. Most of the people come from Wadzanai, Tiperary and Shamva low-density village,” he said.

“The spike was largely caused by hunger because most people who survived from hand-to-mouth are now struggling to fend for their families. Living conditions worsened following the demolition of vending stalls in Wadzanayi township in May by the Local Government ministry and the banning of gold panning which are the main sources of income for most families. Food and money shortages are major sources of conflict.”

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