Number of street children increases daily Mr Tawanda Zimhunga, Director of Social Development, Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare

Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter

GOVERNMENT is conducting a survey in Bulawayo city centre to identify children living on the streets as part of efforts to address their vulnerability.

In an interview during the third phase comprehensive review of the National Action Plan for orphans and other vulnerable children, the director of social development in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Tawanda Zimhunga said the number of children living on the streets continues to increase dailyHe said the last survey was done in 2015.

Mr Zimhunga said from the survey a number of measures were recommended and these include response to the problem, identification of those children, documentation, tracing and reunification with their families.

“It is not in the best interests of these children to be put into institutions, but the first thing we do is to determine what exactly is the driving force behind living on the streets and why they are running away from home,” he said.

“So, we do what we call ‘family tracing’ where we work with the families and ensure that the family is ready to receive and welcome the child that has been living on the streets for some time.”

Mr Zimhunga said placing the children in institutions is only a temporary measure while in the process of tracing the family.

He said when they feel that the family is not ready, the child would be temporarily taken to an institution.

“We work with other stakeholders and from each province, and there is a provincial street children steering committee established so that they steer all activities relating to children living on the streets. Government departments, NGOs and civil society organisations including traditional and religious leaders, work together to ensure that they provide services to children living and working in the streets,” said Mr Zimhunga.

He said there is a budget for children living outside the family environment for institutional support.
Mr Zimhunga said there are enough institutions in every province to cater for children living on the streets.

“As we look at our six-tier safety needs system there is the family, nuclear family, extended family, the community, foster care and adoption and the last is institutionalisation. We try the first five methods and when they all fail, these children will be put into institutions,” he said.

“The child can be in an institution for three days or for two hours and then they will be discharged. You will see that the numbers in our institutions fluctuate and that is the reason why I am saying they are enough,” he said.

Mr Zimhunga said such children fall prey to sexual and drug and substance abuse.
He said the National Action Plan for orphans and vulnerable children will ensure that the welfare of the children is safeguarded through the communities and extended families.

Lack psychosocial support such as guidance, love, belonging and protection.

“We want to capacitate our communities, and religious leaders and explain and clarify their role in terms of protecting children. Children belong to families, to the community, and to the country,” said Mr Zimhunga.

“We have enough institutions, and all that we need to ensure is that the institutions are well-resourced and equipped with social workers who can provide care and protection to them.’

Mr Zimhunga said there are, however, not enough social workers to provide care and rehabilitation to e children living and working on the streets.

He said while the country continues to produce social workers, most of them leave for greener pastures in other countries.
Mr Zimhunga said more social workers are needed in urban areas with each province supposed to have at least 10 social workers.

According to a report from the ministry published in 2017, Zimbabwe has an estimated 4 701 children living and working on the streets of the country’s major cities which include Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare among other urban centres. — @ReeSibanda

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