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Communique on Operation Restore Order
Child Protection Working Group (CPWG)
August 25, 2005

We, the Child Protection Working Group (CPWG) comprising representatives of international, regional and local non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, United Nations agencies and other interested parties working in the area of child protection in zimbabwe, recognize that government of Zimbabwe has the remit to maintain law and order and protect its citizens.

We have seen increasing evidence that operation restore order has put many children at risk. The members of CPWG emphasize that children are a particularly vulnerable group in emergency situations and special measures should be put in place to protect them from exploitation, abuse and violence. We are proud that the Zimbabwean government is signatory to the convention on the rights of the child (crc) and the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child. We are, however, concerned that many of the obligations enshrined in articles in the crc have been contravened under the current operation restore order. We are also concerned that the operation is jeopardizing many of the policies and programmes of the government such as the national plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children.

The CPWG request an immediate moratorium on the operation to enable a comprehensive and transparent analysis of the impact of the operation on children.

As the operation is continuing, more and more children are being displaced, with many experiencing multiple displacements. The various transit camps (45% or more of the population of which is made up of children) do not have the adequate minimum standards required for the safe custody of children and the protection of their rights to healthy growth and development. The following are some of the main areas of concern that have directly affected children:

  1. Thousands of children of school-going age have stopped attending school and those in exam classes are being highly prejudiced.
  2. The risks of abuse and exploitation to separated children as well as the long term repercussions of prolonged family separation are enormous and have been well documented globally. Thus far, hundreds of children have become separated from their caregivers and siblings as a result of the displacement and continual population movements. The removal of many of these children to institutions is putting them at greater risk of long-term separation as their parents re-locate to parts unknown.
  3. Children with disabilities have special needs that cannot be accommodated in current arrangements.
  4. Children and their caregivers, affected and infected by hiv and aids, have been made additionally vulnerable.
  5. In order to meet their own and families' basic needs, children, especially adolescent girls and boys, have resorted to risky activities which put them at risk of exploitation.

In the best interest of the child, the cpwg urges the government to consider the following recommendations:

  • An immediate stop to the operation and appropriate measures are put in place to ensure the protection of children already affected by the operation.
  • Immediate access is given to agencies working in child protection to assess the impact of the operation and respond in line with the inter-agency guidelines.
  • Immediate provision of appropriate and safe shelter that complies with sphere standards be made for the most vulnerable children and their families, such as those with disabilities and child-headed households.
  • Urgent measures are made to enable children and adults living with hiv and aids to continue treatment programmes and to have access to appropriate and quality health care and home-based care.
  • Activities to prevent the separation of children from their families and to expedite registration, tracing, appropriate family-based interim care, and family reunification be urgently initiated and coordinated.
  • Police, and other personnel that have the potential to interact with the displaced children, should be trained in prevention of family separation, child protection, and in international and national legal instruments that are meant to protect children
  • To help normalize the lives of affected children and prevent long-term social repercussions of their experiences, activities to promote the psychosocial support of children living in displaced situations need to be put in place. Age-appropriate educational and recreational interventions for boys and girls in displaced situations are urgently required.

The CPWG continues to be committed to the protection of children and is supportive of any measures implemented by the goz to ensure the best interests of children. To this end, we aim to continue to build and maintain a collaborative engagement with the government in an effort to provide quality services to children affected by the operation.

These are everyone's children and must be everyone's responsibility.

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