Zimbabwe has an orphan hood prevalence of 25% and OVC prevalence of 37% with less than one quarter of these children, the most vulnerable citizens, receiving external support. The HIV and AIDS pandemic has increased the vulnerability of many children in Zimbabwe. In particular, HIV and AIDS has created a new generation of orphans, most of whom are forced to stay on their own.
Countless families have been devastated by HIV and AIDS and can no longer cope with the burdens of caring for sick family members, taking in and nurturing orphaned children, and generating enough income to put food on the table and keep children in school. Currently there are over 1.3 million children who have been orphaned in Zimbabwe, of which 1 million are due to AIDS related deaths. The HIV and AIDS pandemic has undermined individual, family and community coping mechanisms, destroying social and cultural institutions and distorting norms and cultural values.
As poverty and inequalities in Zimbabwe deepen, children continue to face threats to their well-being. Although reliable national data are not available, child labour, child sexual abuse and child trafficking remain major issues of concern, as is the capacity of legal, security and welfare professionals to respond to the needs of vulnerable children.
The once renowned social welfare system of Zimbabwe has also deteriorated and reached a state of collapse in late 2008, though certain improvement has been undertaken by the formation of the new Government. Protocols and policies protecting children have not been updated in several years, and almost no social welfare professionals are active in Government to take up their statutory duties. The result is an increasing number of vulnerable children who are living alone, caring for large family networks and working in unsafe practices to try to bring their families a form of livelihood, all by themselves.
Continued capacity shortages within national social welfare and justice for children systems is also impacting on data collection with the result that many vulnerable remain “invisible” to child protection service delivery. Displaced children, trafficked children and those in institutional care (estimated at more than 5,000 in more than 60 institutions in 2006) are known to be increasing in number but are as yet unable to access quality social welfare services such as counseling, reintegration and rehabilitation services