Sexual abuse of children is rampant in Zimbabwe, where the Aids pandemic has orphaned more than a million, the UN children's fund said Monday.
Most of the victims are primary school children, according to reports from clinics, aid groups and the media. One local group recorded 4 146 cases of sexual abuse against children in its area of operation last year alone, UNICEF said in a statement.
Some children are abused by school staff, others by family members, and most by trusted figures of authority, the statement said. Staff at one primary school in the capital, Harare, allegedly abused 14 girls, while at another school in nearby Marondera, 52 girls were allegedly abused.
At least one in five Zimbabwean children has lost one or both parents, the overwhelming majority because of AIDS, UNICEF spokesman James Elder said by telephone from Harare. Many are cared for by already stretched extended families, grappling with acute food shortages, 80 percent unemployment and inflation of over 500 percent.
"With so many economic challenges, coupled with a very high number of orphaned children ... there is an incredible level of vulnerability here," Elder said. A child without money is more likely to hitch a ride from a stranger, for example, he added....