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By Shingirai Vambe, Reporting from Mutare

The COVID-19 induced lockdowns and the subsequent slowed economic development has resulted in an increase in child marriages and contracting HIV and Aids, a study by Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) has shown.

WLSA research consultant Andy Ziyera, told Post On Sunday that, “more than 400 girl children had dropped out of school since 2020.”

However, the report did not cover the cyclone Idai affected areas Chipinge and Chimanimani , Marange and Birchnough were high figures of school drop-outs and child marriages was prevalent due to poverty, religious beliefs including other circumstances.

While many young girls contracted HIV and Aids, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), many others experienced home based birth deliveries out of fear, cultural and religious beliefs, thus compromising the capturing of data in both national demography and that of children being affected.

Nurses in Chimanimani and Chipinge (names withheld) told this publication that the when they do their mobile clinic reaching out to communities they discover that majority of people in these areas don’t go to hospitals, due to many reasons including long distances to get medical services.

“We find it hard but that is the case in most areas down here in Chipinge and Chimanimani. The majority of home-based deliveries are juveniles,” they said.

Contacted for a comment the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Manicaland, Provincial Education Director, Edward Shumba could not ascertain to the current figures as children are still coming back to school after the long lockdown.

WLSA’s Ziyera said, “it’s not only Covid but the country’s economy” that has exacerbated the situation as many had resorted to vending after losing their formal jobs in the intervening period.

“Most girls are finding it easy to move in with their lovers and the results are already vivid. Single parenting, child headed families, murder and suicide cases are already on the increase are now the order of the day,” said Ziyera.

Many have left their families, claiming to have been abused while others are without those giving them care and attention as parents or guardians go out daily in search of meals.

Improper shelter that this publication identified in another section of Sakubva (OTS) in Mutare urban also proved to be another factor for a delinquent behaviour. More than one family, in some cases three to four families share a single room, dividing it with curtains.

The level of poverty and desperation was also identified as another major reason for the majority of school drop-outs and drug abuse cases.

The same scenario was also identified in Chimanimani after Cyclone Idai, where many young girls moved in to stay with those who were not affected. Ignorant to unlawful abuse including the effects of sexually related sicknesses and diseases or lack of education and ignorance thereof, many young girls still saw it better to move in with those who offered them help in times of this crisis.