Child abuse and particularly sexual predation is on the rise in Zimbabwe, driven by the country's large and growing population of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic, according to the United Nations Childrens Fund and local child advocacy groups.
UNICEF and a number of child-protection organizations highlighted the extent of child abuse in the country on Sunday, designated the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and seized the opportunity to raise national awareness of the problem.
The Child Protection Working Group condemned the rise in abuse of the young, which often takes the form of sexual predation. The group urged the government, community leaders and parents to take action against such crimes. The group said there were nearly 7,000 cases of child abuse in 2005, equivalent to one every hour.
Officials of Childline Zimbabwe, which received more than 34,000 reports of child abuse just in the first nine months of 2006, said the steep rise in increase in reported cases child abuse also reflected a greater willingness by victims to step forward.
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe spoke with UNICEF Harare spokesman James Elder, who correlated the surge in child abuse with growth in the population of orphans, the largest in the world on a per capita basis.
Client manager Theresa Maturure with Childline Zimbabwe said she believes more children now feel empowered to report cases of abuse against them.