Irked by the deteriorating social fabric in Epworth characterised by rising cases of drug abuse, prostitution and child marriages, among other forms of abuse, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday mobilised churches and visited the sprawling settlement.
A good number of children in the area have dropped out of school, choosing to live on menial jobs and vices like prostitution and thuggery.
According to some of the residents, Epworth is a place where all sorts of drugs such as musombodia, codeine, maragadu, ganja cakes, ngovha, glue, marijuana and broncho are found at almost every street corner, with a place popularly known as “pabooster” being their “market” place.
Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the First Lady roped in churches, the Department of Social Welfare and other relevant organisations to understand the growing problem and bring hope to the youths and people of Epworth.
During the engagement, the First Lady was told heart-rending stories of how young women were often drugged before being sexually abused and impregnated.
Some contract STIs and eventually drop out of school.
“This is an engagement platform where we want to hear first-hand experiences from the children themselves on why they use these drugs and alcohol and also try to help each other in mapping ways of addressing the growing problem taking cognisance of the fact that there are a number of civic organisations working in Epworth,” said the First Lady.
Globally, the First Lady said, studies had shown that there was an increase in substance use among children and that the problem was closely associated with deviant behaviours like truancy, theft, assault, engagement in risky sexual behaviour and abortion.
“Substance abuse among children initiates them into a myriad of anti-social tendencies which then affects future prospects, particularly when children abscond from school due to mental disorders associated with drug abuse,” she said.
“Children use substances due to different reasons, ranging from reaction to troubled family backgrounds, peer influence, social media influence, harsh parenting, lack of supervision by parents or guardians, history of substance abuse, criminality in the family, gang influence and living in overcrowded neighbourhoods.”
The First Lady underscored the need for Government and society to assist children through a range of preventative and responsive programmes which should holistically address the health, psychological, mental, social and emotional needs.
“I call upon all the relevant players in the health, social protection and education sectors to work towards assisting children and adolescents who are either at risk or are already abusing various types of intoxicating substances,” she said.
The First Lady said as a mother, she was deeply concerned with the way lives of children were being destroyed through substance abuse.
he First Lady said as a mother, she was deeply concerned with the way lives of children were being destroyed through substance abuse.
She warned the syndicate of adult sex workers who use children for financial gains that their days were numbered.
Poverty was highlighted as the major cause of the moral decay in Epworth and to assist the community, the First Lady introduced a reusable sanitary pads making project for the girls.
She urged women in the area to form groups so that she also initiates income generating projects for them.
Amai Mnangagwa donated sanitary wear to learners.
She said she would forward the concerns of the people of Epworth to President Mnangagwa.
A woman who preferred anonymity said, “Epworth is no longer a safe place to raise a girl child and as parents we always fear for the worst. Child prostitution is rampant and our area has become like the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.”