Transportation challenges for clients to report and seek services, in addition to inaccessibility of health service due to strikes or infection of health care staff, are resulting in survivors of violence failing to access post rape care in health facilities as child protection partners need to contact private doctors to receive care for clients.
There is a need for advocacy for waiver of access fees for children, adolescents and young mothers when accessing antiretroviral medication.
The closure of the Registrar’s General Oﬃce which currently has very few staff working has resulted in challenges and delays in the age determination for children in conﬂict with the law who do not have birth certiﬁcates who have to remain in detention until it can be conﬁrmed that they are minors a challenge reported mainly in Mashonaland East Province.
Quarantine measures have placed new stressors on parents and caregivers as a result of children’s prolonged stay at home due to school closure and loss of livelihood due to COVID-19 induced economic challenges.
Since January 2020, 78,208 children, including 10,194 children with disabilities (45 per cent boys and 55per cent girls) and children who have family members infected with COVID-19, have beneﬁtted from structured child protection and psychosocial support (PSS) activities. Child Protection Society (CPS) working with the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) has provided tracing and reuniﬁcation services to 906 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) with 215 children who were previously living on the streets and 164 children referred by Department of Social Welfare (DSW) from quarantine facilities at the borders being reuniﬁed. During the reporting period, the child help line received 706 calls on SGBV and violence against children (VAC) related cases involving girls.
To address the challenges that parents, and caregivers are facing during COVID-19,4 radio programmes which are part of the, "Live Well: Parenting in COVID-19 Series" were aired on SKYZMETRO FM at 11:30 a.m. The radio sessions are aimed at dissemination of positive parenting messaging to foster child protection and resilience in the face of COVID-19 which include interactive sessions with live call ins and WhatsApp messaging. The radio broadcasts covered various topics on the impact of COVID-19 children living with disabilities and teenagers including teen pregnancies, child marriage and SGBV, aired on 15, 17, 22, 24 and 29 September, and 2 and 6 October.
The relaxation of lockdown measures has resulted in issuance of subpoenas and setting of new trial dates for cases including SGBV that did not kick off during the strict lockdown.
Child protection partners continue to work towards ensuring that services are accessible to their clients despite the challenges including:
Hiring minivans that are used to transport survivors of violence to ensure they have access to post rape care and for ongoing capacity building initiatives where training participants are provided with transportation in areas where public transport is not available.
Increase in airtime for staff for continued provision of psychosocial support, remote follow ups and facilitation of case referrals and procurement of PPE.
To facilitate the release of children in detention who do not have birth certiﬁcates Magistrates are applying the Provision in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act that allows them to estimate the age of children which has facilitated court rulings and the eventual release of these children.
There is a lack of COVID-19 related information in accessible formats for persons with disabilities, especially for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the blind or partially blind people.
Service delivery is challenged by lack of adequate PPE as the crisis continues taking into consideration that CP services cannot always be delivered at 1.5 metres distance hence surgical masks and gowns are needed for first line responders. and increased anxiety among staff for fear of infection in a context of poor health care.
Quarantine facilities, residential care centres and other places of safety where children who were previously living on the streets and children returning from Botswana and South Africa have been placed, lack the bare minimum of basic services to maintain adequate personal hygiene, recreation and services to care for them. In addition, there is a lack of non-food items with specific items to cater for the needs of infants in support of mothers with children under age 2 in quarantine facilities.
Child protection has only received 8 per cent funding of the total US$9.6 million that is required. Without this funding, partners continue to face challenges in ensuring the mental health and well-being of all frontline workers. This includes access mental health and psychosocial care, provision of recreational materials for use by children in quarantine facilities, addressing stigma, additional vehicles to facilitate the movement of clients and procurement of adequate PPE to ensure COVID-19 prevention measures are adhered to when conducting home visits for critical cases that cannot be followed up remotely. While partners acknowledge the need to ﬁll this gap the lack of resources remains a limiting factor.