Child abuse worsens

JOHANNESBURG - The worsening humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is making children more vulnerable to abuse, according to child rights NGOs. "For instance, because of the hike in schools fees many children are visiting schools [trying to negotiate payment] - it makes them more vulnerable at the hand

s of teachers who exploit them,” said Witness Chikoko, acting director of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect. Staff at a boarding primary school near Marondera outside the capital, Harare, were recently charged with abusing 52 girls, while 14 primary school girls were also allegedly abused by staff members at a school in the capital. The Girl Child Network (GCN), an NGO working in 32 of Zimbabwe’s 58 districts, said it had recorded an average of 700 rape cases of girls aged up to 16 every month in 2005 – more than 8,000 cases. According to GCN about 93 percent of the children raped in Zimbabwe are girls and seven percent boys. About half the girls raped were from child-headed households, she added. Zimbabwe has one of the highest levels of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa, which has left one in five children orphaned. – IRIN

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