28 February 2008

Zimbabwe: Unicef Helps Launch Campaign Against Surging Child Rape Rates

With the number of reported cases of children raped in Zimbabwe surging more than 40 per cent in the last three years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has joined with the Government and religious groups in an awareness campaign to fight the scourge.

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, the National Faith Based Council of Zimbabwe, and UNICEF yesterday launched their Stand Up and Speak Out campaign against child abuse, aiming to reach more than six million of the African country's citizens.

"The Stand Up and Speak Out information campaign will confront all types of abuse of children - sexual, physical, neglect and verbal," UNICEF's Representative in Zimbabwe, Festo Kavishe, said.

"If perpetrators are going to be stopped and if children are going to have the confidence to speak out against these evils, then families, communities and schools must concentrate on the value of children, and how they deserve our love and respect," he said.

In a press release, UNICEF said the information campaign is aimed at raising awareness of all forms of child abuse, the damage caused, how child abuse can be prevented, and importantly where to get help.

It said the campaign includes programming for radio, television, signage and print media, and well as training and materials for church sermons, Sunday school classes, and other religious activities.

Iconic Zimbabwean gospel singer Shingisai has written a campaign song, which will air on national radio and, hopefully, be sung in churches across the country.

Official police figures show that there were 2192 reported "rape cases involving children 16 years and below" in 2003. In 2006 this jumped to 3112, an increase of 42 per cent.

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