By Buttler Nhepure
For children in Zimbabwe, 116 can mean the difference between life and death.
Childline Zimbabwe has been operating the free phone 116, a number that government acknowledged as an emergency number for all children in Zimbabwe. The free phone has over the years allowed children in distress to receive help. The safe and confidential reporting platform has also provided children a much needed friend.
To ensure maximum reach, Childline operates 3 call centers, in Harare, Bulawayo and most recently in Masvingo. This has brought the 116 number closer to children across the country. Children in different areas have unique problems and thus need to relate to the person on the other side of the line and Childline has been frantically working on ensuring that this happens by opening call centers in all regions. With the requisite funding, we can’t wait to have 116 in Mutare.
116 has been a source of joy and sadness. A child who needs someone to sing Happy Birthday for them because mum and dad forgot is one of the helpline agents blissful moments or a teen making an enquiry about two boys asking her out is all in a day’s work. Yet these brave men and women who volunteer their life to helping children also have to bear the pain of listening to an 8 year old who is enduring daily rape from a father or uncle. They have to listen when an 11 year old boy calls to say I am bleeding from the mouth, the nose and the ear because my dad beat me up. They have to listen and help.
Thanks to the 116 number Childline has forged lasting relationships with the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Department of Social Welfare and other stakeholders to bring perpetrators of child abuse to book.
Childline answers nearly 2000 calls a day and 50 000 calls a month
Since 1997 Childline has helped 195 204 children
116 is about saving and serving the children of Zimbabwe!!!
Images provided by Richard Mutingwende