Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:26

ZIMBABWE: Children Demand Better Services for the Disadvantaged

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Children from across the country have called on the government to be more responsive and proactive in addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), who are among the most affected by the collapse in the provision of social services.

Although the exact figures could not be immediately established, children's representatives last week told the government that most OVC do not have identification documents, a situation that makes it impossible for them to access most social services.

Speaking at the launch of the National Action Plan for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children - Phase 2 (2011 - 2015), Karel Nyandoro, a 15-year-old Form III student at Kwekwe High School said failure to address the social services requirements for OVC was making them more vulnerable.

"Many of us are orphans and vulnerable children," Nyandoro said.

"Our situation is made worse because we sometimes find it difficult to access birth certificates resulting in our failure to access education, national identity documents, passports and other basic services that have the production of a birth certificate as a prerequisite."

Nyandoro told senior government officials -- including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Thokozani Khupe - that OVC "still face some stumbling blocks as we lack adequate information on the requirements for birth registration".

The children petitioned the government to recruit more social workers to assist especially OVC and to allow them to also take part in the implementation of some of the programmes.

Nyandoro said there has been an increase in child sexual abuse, and appealed to the government "to come up with punitive and deterrent sentences for perpetrators of child sexual abuse and all other forms of abuse".

"We want cases of child sexual abuse to be given first preferences in Victim Friendly courts and be closed quickly," she said.

The NAP for OVC is funded by the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), European Commission, Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, as part of efforts to strengthen families through cash transfers to the poorest households.

The programme was launched to meet the basic needs of orphans and other categories of vulnerable children, reaching out to some 80 000 households.

The funding target is US$75 million, of which US$45 million has already been made available.

Unicef country representative Peter Salama said: "Protecting children from poverty, harm and abuse begins with reducing their vulnerabilities, cash transfers are one of the critical components that will contribute to the realisation of children's rights".

Salama said the NAP for OVC will ensure children have equal access to services, regardless of where they live or their particular vulnerabilities.

He said the programme would help over one million children with each family getting up to US$25 a month to meet its immediate needs for food and health care.

Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Gwanyanya-Mpariwa said the grants will go a long way in alleviating the suffering in Zimbabwe's communities.

Source: Zimbabwe Standard (Harare, Zimbabwe)

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