Metros child-trafficking hotspots

Nine investigations in progress in Eastern Cape, but state funding to NGOs like Childline slashed

Port Elizabeth and East London have been identified as the child-trafficking hotspots in the province, with nine investigations currently on the go.

This, coupled with a disturbing upswing in cases of child abuse and murder, had led Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi to launch a campaign against child abuse, her spokesman, Mzukisi Solani, said.

Child Protection Week is being marked this week.

Solani said that over the past two years the department had recorded more than 600 cases of child abuse in the province.

“The reality of child trafficking in the province has led to a specialist police unit launching nine investigations into human trafficking, with Port Elizabeth and East London the hotspots.”

While the department acknowledges the dire situation, those working for non-governmental organisations say its decision to slash budgets has exacerbated the situation.

Childline Eastern Cape director Aisha Abrahams said the organisation, which offers counselling to 10 000 abuse and rape survivors every year, was restricting services on the back of a reduced subsidy.

Abrahams yesterday said they had received no feedback from the Department of Social Development since they first raised their concerns a few weeks ago.

The department’s delays in finalising subsidies for the new financial year have put several NGOs, including those that deal with substance abuse, in dire straits.

“We had to ask for a bailout to pay salaries and phone accounts this month,” Abrahams said.

“We have heard nothing from the department.”

She said that in the last financial year, Childline Eastern Cape managed 10 225 calls on its crisis line.

“We provide therapy to children and their families and psychological first aid at the Thuthuzela care centres [where rape survivors are treated] in the province.”

They were also involved in prevention and early intervention programmes.

The DA’s Kobus Botha said he had written to the chairman of the social development portfolio committee in Bhisho, Christian Martin, asking why the cut in funding to non-profit organisations throughout the province was not brought to the attention of the committee.

“This action by the department is, in my opinion, irresponsible, uncaring, unlawful, unreasonable and procedurally unfair,” Botha said.

“The portfolio committee should be convened as a matter of urgency and the officials called to account and show some teeth in fighting for the poor.”

According to a national prevalence study on child abuse, published last year, one in three children is the victim of sexual violence and physical abuse before reaching the age of 18.

In the Eastern Cape, 53% of girls and 56% of boys reported emotional abuse and neglect.

Abrahams said Childline had only four social workers for the province.

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