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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                       

Republic of Zimbabwe

The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles with an unsustainable fiscal deficit, an overvalued official exchange rate, hyperinflation, and bare store shelves. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The government's land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Zimbabwe

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Zimbabwe.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


One way street – to despair: life for Zimbabwe's street kids

Sokwanele, December 10th, 2007

[accessed 18 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Mandla sleeps under a cardboard box and survives by scavenging for food from the city’s many overflowing and evil-smelling rubbish bins. He has only been on the streets for a few weeks but has learnt quickly, as needs must in this dangerous and disease-ridden environment. There is no one else to turn to for help. His few surviving relatives do not even know where he is. On the streets the law of the jungle operates - literally the survival of the fittest. Frequently it is only rapid reflexes and a swift pair of feet that keep the inhabitants of this shadowy world out of really serious trouble. Mandla Mpofu (*) is one of Bulawayo’s burgeoning number of street kids. He is just eleven years old.

Uphold Children's Dignity

Philani Nyatsanza, The Herald, Harare, 8 April 2009

[partially accessed 18 August 2011 - access restricted]

It has become common parlance, so much that we have ignored the consequences of such labels as "street children" and "Aids orphans".   In simple terms, this is not just naming, but naming and shaming in the same breathe. The power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).   Why should a child be made to pay the price of something over which they had neither power, say, like losing a parent to an HIV-related illness?   The tragedy is that such shaming has a very high price because, whether we see it or not, it will always haunt the child, looming over them like some spectre of evil.

Every time you call them "street children" or "Aids orphans" you are prophesying into their lives (words are carriers of spiritual power) and at the end of the day, they act and behave in a manner consistent with what you have labelled them.   So, instead of getting answers to the problem of children making a "home" in the streets, we exacerbate this socio-economic ill by condemnation through labelling.

"Street children" seems to have become almost like a trade name, because it is drawn directly from the disadvantaged children's characteristically grimy lifestyles in the streets.   But whether they live and work in streets, in families and communities, they are just children.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Covid-19: Spare a thought for street children

Gibson Mhaka, B-Metro, 3 April 2020

[accessed 8 February 2023]

"I heard about it (coronavirus) a bit but I don't know how I am supposed to protect myself from the disease.  We are already ruined and so for us it's better to get the disease while looking for food," Nyasha said to loud approval from other children.

He further said they were finding it difficult to survive since most of the dust bins they usually get food from were empty.

"We are also unable to survive in the present situation and how can I feed myself when there are no people in town.  The Good Samaritans, who usually give us food and small jobs to earn money are locked at home," he said.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 17 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Parliamentary investigation into the situation at camps found that conditions were poor, trainees were subjected to political indoctrination, and no real vocational training was being provided.  Over the past few years, the number of children living on the streets has continued to rise and there are reports of children involved in commercial sexual exploitation.

Since the beginning of 2004, many schools have been forced to increase fees to cover the growing cost of materials and salaries due to inflation. The fee increases reportedly have led to a rise in dropout rates, affecting girls disproportionately

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - The government’s “Children in Difficult Circumstances” program is intended to assist street children.  The Program and the Basic Education Assistance Module provide school fees, uniforms and books for children who cannot afford to attend school.  UNICEF and other international organizations are assisting with the government’s education efforts and have been particularly involved in school feeding programs during the recent food crisis.  UNICEF has also been supplying school-in-a-box kits, which provide basic learning materials, to children attending satellite schools.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - There was no compulsory education, and schooling was not free. School fees increased dramatically during the year, and enrollment declined. According to one company's inflation analysis, school costs for low-income families increased nearly 900 percent from December 2004 through November. Many families could not afford to send all of their children to school. According to the 2002 census data and age‑specific population distributions, roughly 72 percent of school‑age children attended school. In September President Mugabe claimed that 97 percent of primary school-age children attended school in 2004. The highest level achieved by most students was primary level education.

There were an estimated 1.3 million HIV/AIDS orphans by year's end, and the number was increasing. The number of AIDs orphans (including children who lost one as well as both parents) was about 10 percent of the country's population. Many grandparents were left to care for the young, and, in some cases, children or adolescents headed families and were forced to work to survive. AIDS orphans and foster children were at high risk for child abuse. Some children were forced to turn to prostitution as a means of income. According to local custom, other family members inherit before children, leaving many children destitute. Many such children were unable to obtain birth certificates, which then prevented them from obtaining social services.

During Operation Restore Order, the government detained many street children and took them to transit camps or juvenile detention centers. At year's end NGOs were uncertain how the operation affected the number of children living on the streets, which in previous years had risen dramatically.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 7 June 1996

[accessed 17 January 2011]

[17] The Committee is concerned at the number of orphans and abandoned children as well as at the increase in child-headed families, inter alia, as a result of the high incidence of AIDS, at the inadequate measures taken to ensure the realization of their fundamental rights and at the lack of alternatives to their institutionalization.

Zimbabwean girls seek opportunity in South Africa

Donna Bryson, The Associated Press AP, Musina South Africa, May 13, 2009

[accessed 19 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Sofia Chimhangwa, a 14-year-old in a denim skirt, lies on the concrete under a filthy blanket. Her 15-year-old friend sits next to her, braiding a legless Barbie's hair. Sofia says she survives because the other girl's 19-year-old boyfriend helps feed them both when the coins they beg don't stretch far enough.   "We shouldn't be here on our own. I know that," Sofia said. Her big sister helped her get to the border from Zimbabwe's capital Harare. After eight months in this border town, Sofia is not ready to go home because she cannot yet take money back to her widowed father.   She is among an increasing number of young Zimbabweans setting out on their own to escape their homeland's economic ruin, bringing both a child's naive sense of invincibility and a grown-up desire to help their families.

Musina is "not a good place," Tracy said. "There are no jobs. There's no place to stay. A lot of robbery. Girls are forcing themselves into prostitution to get money. And others are forcing themselves into temporary marriage, to stay with boyfriends for security."   However, she said she would not discourage any young Zimbabwean girl from coming here, adding she would likely return herself one day — a measure of the desperation in her homeland.   With an economic free-fall, collapsed hospital infrastructure and deadly cholera epidemic, aid agencies are feeding most of the population in Zimbabwe. For many Zimbabweans, the only road to survival remains the one leading to South Africa.   First, men left in search of work. As times got worse, women, too, had to leave. And finally children.

Streetchildren Need Families

Philani Nyatsanza, The Herald, 22 April 2009

[partially accessed 19 August 2011 - access restricted]

Sometime back in July 2006, Government -- exasperated by the number of people resorting to eking out a living in the streets -- embarked on a programme whereby they sought to clean up the city centre by rounding up all children living in the streets.

The action seemed to be only a temporary reprieve, for the streets were soon flooded again, showing that the concerned parties had applied the wrong method to addressing this question of children living and working in the streets.   This is typical of what always happens in vicious cycle-fashion: whenever children are rounded up from the streets by the police, it's only a temporary measure for they always come back because the streets are probably the only "accommodating" places they know.   They would rather not go back to empty homes: be they empty of parents, love or food.

Children flee Zimbabwe to uncertain future

Justine Gerardy, Agence France-Presse AFP, Musina South Africa, Jan 11 2009

[accessed 19 August 2011]

Prince Jelom has sold eggs, carried bags and pushed trolleys to survive life as a 13-year-old on the run from Zimbabwe's spectacular collapse.   He knows the best spots to sleep in a bus shelter, how to work an 11-hour day, and the tricks of bluffing his way back across a border after being deported.   But beyond his streetwise know-how, Jelom is just a penniless small boy who misses and worries about the grandmother he left behind in rural north-western Zimbabwe.   "I ran away on Wednesday, October 15, because I wanted to buy some books, clothes and a bicycle," he told Agence France-Presse in the border town of Musina, after travelling solo through Zimbabwe.

Jelom is one of 100 Zimbabwean children sleeping in a crowded tin-roofed garage at a Musina church, set up as a shelter for scores of young Zimbabwean boys found wandering the streets.   Living rough, often eating from rubbish bins, the street children are casualties of the worsening crisis at home where deadly cholera has come on the back of chronic food shortages, mind-boggling inflation and the collapse of hospitals and schools.

Zimbabwe: Council in Drive to Rehabilitate Street People

The Herald, Harare, 3 December 2007

[partially accessed 19 August 2011 - access restricted]

Mrs Gambiza-Pasipanodya said the programme involved urging residents, ratepayers and private organisations to desist from offering money or material support to street children and adults as this was a major factor in influencing their continued stay on the streets.

Zimbabwe: Children Need Everyone's Protection

Jotham Dhemba, The Herald, Harare, 1 November 2007

[accessed 15 January 2017]

THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM - There is rapid growth in the number of orphaned children in Zimbabwe, and it is estimated that by 2010, more than one third of the children may have lost parents as a result of HIV and Aids. Others put this figure at one in every five children, which is indeed cause for concern. It is also estimated that there are currently over 1 million orphans in Zimbabwe and even more worrying, if current trends are anything to go by, are estimates suggesting that this rapid growth will not level off until 2030.  Also horrifying, are trends showing an increasing incidence of child-headed households, where older children have to look after their siblings. Furthermore, the phenomenal increase in the number of children's homes is evidence of the incapacity of nuclear and extended families to care for OVC.

The worsening phenomenon of street children in urban areas is also symptomatic of a worsening problem and a malfunctioning child welfare system. It should be evident to all concerned about the problem of child welfare, that there are many more "invisible" children who are not accounted for in official statistics.

Nashville Agents Give Hope to African Orphans

Tracey C. Velt, REALTOR® Magazine Online, September 19, 2007

[accessed 19 August 2011]

“When I got there, I heard about this wonderful woman who would bring the street children tea and bread every morning,” she says. “I expected this benevolent, shining woman to step out of the shadows to feed the kids, but she was an old woman living in an apartment that was about to be condemned, barely able to make ends meet. The children would climb out of storm drains and ditches to get food from her.”

Zimbabwe Police In Roundup Of Harare Street Children And Vendors

Voice of America VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, Washington, 04 November 2009

[accessed 15 October 2012]

Police in the Zimbabweean capital of Harare have been rounding up street children and vendors in an operation including beatings of those detained, sources said.  Unlicensed vendors have been slapped with fines of Z$40,000 US$0.15) while police have confiscated their goods, the sources said, noting that previous occasions when such crackdowns have been in progress goods were auctioned. But the lack of such auctions has lead observers to conclude that police are keeping the goods.  Sources with children's rights organisations said they have not been able to determine where police have taken the street children that have been rounded up.

Food Experts: Time is Ripe to Grow More Bananas in Zimbabwe

Voice of America VOA News, Harare, July 30, 2007

[accessed 15 October 2012]

Munya is a street child who earns money by guarding cars in the capital. He says he regularly buys bananas from Chiwkama, because he can afford neither chicken nor chips.

Street children's project still to fly

Augustine Mukaro, The Zimbabwe Independent, 21 July 2006

[partially accessed 20 September 2011 - access restricted]

To date, there are no indications of any developments relating to a children's home. However, the farm is being fully utilised.

Zimbabwe, the land of dying children - Mugabe has ruined his country with policies that are killing thousands

R W Johnson, The Sunday Times, Harare, January 7, 2007

[accessed 19 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Suffer the little children is a phrase never far from your mind in today’s Zimbabwe. The horde of painfully thin street children milling around you at traffic lights is almost the least of it: in a population now down to 11m or less there are an estimated 1.3m orphans.  Go to one of the overflowing cemeteries in Bulawayo or Beit Bridge and you are struck by the long lines of tiny graves for babies and toddlers.

Under the weight of the general economic meltdown — the economy has shrunk by 40% since 2000 and is still contracting — the health system has collapsed and a populace now weakened by five consecutive years of near-starvation dies of things which would never have been fatal before. A staggering 42,000 women died in childbirth last year, for example, compared with fewer than 1,000 a decade ago.

Children of the streets feel wrath of Mugabe

David Blair, The Telegraph, Johannesburg, 16 May 2006

[accessed 19 August 2011]

President Robert Mugabe began a new onslaught on Zimbabwe's poor yesterday when his regime announced that more than 10,000 street children and vagrants had been "rounded up" in Harare.  Police described their latest assault on the capital's poverty-stricken street dwellers, codenamed Operation Round Up, as a crime-fighting measure.

Last year they bulldozed thousands of "illegal structures" in the poorest townships, leaving 700,000 people without homes or livelihoods.

Police Round Up Street Kids

The Herald, Harare, July 18, 2006

[accessed 19 August 2011]

Police in Harare on Sunday rounded up more than 50 street kids in a move meant to combat crime in and around the city centre.

Asst Insp Pamire said people should desist from giving the street kids and beggars money because they usually buy intoxicating beverages, thereby inciting violence and eventually disturbing peace as they harass the public.

The number of children living on the streets is increasing because of the money they get from people.

Street Kids Unite to Write Book

Stanley Kwenda, Financial Gazette, Harare, April 12, 2006

[accessed 15 January 2017]

The book, entitled A Zimbabwean Street Story, was published with the help of German Agro Action, Germany Embassy, Streets Ahead and United Nations Volunteers, is a story about the plight of Zimbabwean street children. It tells stories about their everyday lives and how they became street children.

The book asks whether street children are badly behaved, despised and rejected. It also explores whether they are safe in the streets, they have dreams and hopes, aspirations to succeed and above all if at all they choose to be in the streets. The 60-page book chronicles their life and the story is told first hand by the street children themselves.

Plot to dump street kids in youth training camps

The Financial Gazette, November 25, 2004

[accessed 15 January 2017]

The Harare City Council is planning to dump more than 7 000 street kids at the controversial national youth training centres in a sweep likely to be replicated in other towns and cities.

Plans are already at an advanced stage to forcibly round up beggars and a hardened army of street children, starting in the capital Harare, as the government battles to stem the spiralling population of street people, sources said.

Street Children Vulnerable to AIDS

The International Child and Youth Care Network CYC-NET, 8 July 2004

[accessed 19 August 2011]

Ten-year-old Molin considers the streets of Zimbabwe's capital her home. She's not alone.  At least 12,000 children eke out a living on the country's highways and byways.  Molin says she prefers her current existence to living with her stepmother, whom she describes as abusive.  She and her urban brothers and sisters have become part of the decaying infrastructure of Zimbabwe's towns, bribing policemen and sleeping in sewers.

Increase In Street Children As Economy Worsens

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 30 July 2004

[accessed 22 February 2015]

Results from an assessment of children living and working on the streets in urban areas around the capital, Harare, showed that the majority ended up here as a result of poverty, sexual or physical abuse and family breakdown.

Bleak Future For Zimbabwe's Street Children

Valentine Maponga, Zimbabwe Standard, 20 June 2004

[accessed 19 August 2011]

With the economic crisis showing no signs of a respite, there was little to cheer, particularly for street children who have to endure cold nights and starvation in the country's major cities.

Government Establishes Fund for Street Children

The Herald, Harare, 5 July 2005

[partially accessed 19 August 2011 - access restricted]

Government has established the Children on the Streets Fund meant to protect and rehabilitate children living or working on the streets and shall be applied for the removal of children below the age of 18 from the streets for reunification with their families or placement in institutions dealing with street children.

Zimbabwe To Draft Street Children Into Youth Militia

Zim Online (SA), Harare, 14-Jun-2005

[accessed 11 Aug  2013]

The Zimbabwe government plans to conscript thousands of street children into its controversial national youth service training program blamed for converting youths into violently zealous defenders of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party.

Femi Kuti Speaks Out For Zimbabwe’s 1.3 Million Orphans

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, 09 May 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 19 August 2011]

Despite the world’s fourth worst rate of HIV/AIDS, the highest rise in child mortality of any nation, and the number of street children doubling in the past five years, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in their region.

Information About Street Children - Zimbabwe [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for East and Southern Africa on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 11- 13 February 2002, Nairobi, Kenya

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 19 August 2011]

Over 30,000 household headed are headed by children under 21 and another 3,000 are headed by children under 15; 600,000 children under 15 are estimated to have lost their mother; estimated 12,000 street children of whom about 5,000 are in Harare; numbers increase during school holidays and weekends when children are sent out by their parents to supplement the family income or to earn their school fees and levies.

Tanya: It’s Better to Die of AIDS Than Hunger

Stanley Karombo, New Internationalist Magazine, Issue 377, April 1, 2005

[accessed 17 January 2011]

‘Soon after the death of my father I was evicted from the house where my parents lodged in Mbare.  I went to stay with my grandmother who lives in Mabvuku.  There were 10 of us children staying there and we had all been left by deceased relatives.  Life was difficult because, being an old woman, my grandmother had no means of sustaining herself and all of us at the same time.’

CHILDREN: Those The Anti-AIDS Campaigners Forget

Isabella Matambanadzo, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, HARARE, 5 June 1996

[accessed 19 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Generally, the boys do odd jobs such as guarding parked cars, while the girls beg.  But destitution transforms many children of both sexes into easy prey for people who sexually exploit them in exchange for a little money, warm clothes, a pair of old shoes or simply a hot meal.

Firelight Foundation

Firelight Foundation

[accessed 19 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

[scroll down]

SCRIPTURE UNION / CHIEDZA STREET CHILDREN’S PROGRAM, BULAWAYO     2003 – $5,800 - Scripture Union, a nondenominational Christian group, has been working with children, youth, and families in Zimbabwe for 56 years. Their recent interest in street children’s issues has led them to develop an area of expertise in working with this marginalized population. Having discovered that many of the children ending up on the streets of the nation’s largest cities were from two provinces, they began to work with youth in those areas to prevent them from leaving home. Chiedza is one of those areas. Firelight funding for Scripture Union’s Chiedza Street Children’s Program provides materials for a drop-in center, including clothes, first aid supplies, toiletries, and equipment. Funds also support administrative costs and staff allowances.

[scroll down]

NEHEMIAH PROJECT, BULAWAYO     2003 – $7,000 - The Nehemiah Project works with children in Sauerstown, an extremely poor community outside of Bulawayo. Nehemiah identifies and offers ongoing outreach to children at risk of becoming street children or runaways. With this funding, Nehemiah Project supports 140 children living on the streets or in child-headed households through community outreach and mobilization. They are establishing drop-in centers where children can obtain food, clothing, counseling, school fees, and materials. Funds also cover the salaries of two community workers who visit the children regularly. Finally, they are recruiting community members to invest in the care and education of children.

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