20 000 distress calls received yearly by Childline

About 20 000 distress calls from minors are received yearly through the Childline call centre, the National Director Precious Taru has revealed.

Fifteen percent of these cases involve sexual abuse and early child marriages.

Speaking during the handover ceremony of the new Childline call centre in Bulawayo which came through the support of the Australian Embassy, Taru said on a daily basis they receive over 1000 calls.

“On a daily basis we receive over 1000 calls every single day for example between 12 midnight and 11 am, we have already received 347 calls and the number will increase especially if we get into the afternoon when some of the children have left school where they are now able to access phones,” said Taru.

“We get between 15 and 20 000 cases every year because calls are just a number of calls that come through the call centre but then we categorise them according to what is required. In terms of the calls that then translate into violence cases, we receive between 15 to 20 000 cases every year.”

She added, “These cases are then categorised according to the type of abuse that is happening, around 15 percent of those cases are sexual violence cases, children are being raped, children are being molested and we also have incidents of child marriage that we receive through the call centre.”

Taru said the numbers are continuously increasing every year,

“The numbers continue to go up, so where we would receive 11 000, the following year the number will go to 12 000 and as of last year we were now recording around 15 665 cases per year of children that are being abused,” she said.

Taru said some of the children also use their dropping centres’ facilities.

“Some of the children physically come to our dropping centres if they need assistance, Childline currently has 32 dropping centres but we have 16 that are currently functional, some of them are not functional because of limited resources,” she said.

She added that the new call centre is going to increase the number of volunteers attending the calls.

“We did make an application to the Australian Embassy last year and we managed to get a grant to construct a new call centre for Childline Zimbabwe, we are hoping that with the new set up we will have more calls coming through and we will also reduce the number of dropped calls that were coming through because we did have limited volunteers when we had the old room that we were using,” said Taru.

She also said they received support from Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) and they are grateful to all their friends who came through to ensure that they continue to provide the critical services that children of Zimbabwe need.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Deputy Australian Ambassador, Susan Cash said Childline is making an important contribution to child protection efforts in Zimbabwe.

“The work that Childline undertakes is incredibly important in complementing the Ministry of Health and Child welfare efforts in advancing children’s rights. Children need to grow up in a safe, healthy and positive environment, however, we are living in unprecedented times of difficulty where children now face a myriad of challenges which have been more pronounced and have been made more complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Cash.

She said children’s mental health and emotional well-being have been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

“We strongly believe that Childline 116 toll-free helpline service is an incredibly important support to children in different forms of distress,” said Cash.

“Australia is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of children and we are incredibly proud to have supported ChildLine with the construction of their new call centre, we hope that this new call centre will enable Childline to assist even more children in Zimbabwe.”

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