PARENTS and community leaders in arid districts of Chivi South, Mwenezi and Chiredzi in Masvingo Province have expressed grave concern at an increase in child prostitution as hunger stalks Tokwe-Murkosi flood victims who were relocated from Chingwizi last year.
The hardest hit areas are Ngundu Halt, Lundi, Rutenga, and Chiredzi town where girls as young as 13 and 14 have since assumed a new commercial sex trade name "ZviTokwe-Murkosi", swarming night clubs at business centres where they are selling their bodies for as little as $1.
"It's so bad when you visit a night club here at Ngundu to enjoy your beer and you come across a bunch of young girls sex for very little amounts of money and when you inquire about their origin, they tell you they are Tokwe-Murkosi floods victims," said Tongai Mukumbadzose, a parent from Sese Village near Ngundu Growth Point.
The girls' parents said their daughters are being forced out of school because government just dumped displaced families in the vast Nuanetsi Ranch without any compensation or money for their upkeep.
Most of the Tokwe-Murkosi relocated families still live in makeshift tents as they have no money to build permanent housing structures and government has hinted that it intends to move them again to Chiumburu Farm in Chiredzi District.
"Because government just dumped us in the middle of the jungle without giving us resources and money to restart new lives, we are now failing to send our children to school and our girls have run away from their homes to nearby growth points to sell their bodies," said Chenai Makurumidze, a victim of the floods.
Community leaders have called on government to address the situation as the young girls were prone to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/Aids.
"Government is to blame as it played a part ruining the lives of innocent young girls who now have no option except to engage in transactional sex. This is very dangerous as the girls risk contracting sexually transmitted infections like HIV/Aids," said Arnold Batirai, Masvingo Youth Agenda director.
Batirai said besides being at risk of contracting diseases, government was violating the young girl's constitutional right to education as provided for in the new Constitution since it was behind the school drop outs.
Although Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa declined to comment, some of the young sex workers who spoke to the news crew recently said they were being forced to do this so that they could survive and help fend for their families in Nuanetsi.
"We are doing this out of necessity. Look, since we dropped out of school, we also spent days at home without anything to eat. So we came here in search of decent jobs to help our parents take care of our siblings but we couldn't get the jobs.
"We had to opt for prostitution for our families' survival," said a 13-year-old girl who only identified herself as Lisa at a pub in Chiredzi's Tsvovani high density suburb.
In a report last year, the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe claimed that over 400 children at Chingwizi dropped out of school due to poor living conditions and poverty following the floods.
The report also alleged that over 100 cases of child pregnancy at the flood victims' schools were reported.
"Children as young as 10, 11 and 12 years have fallen pregnant at Chingwizi while hundreds of other students have simply dropped out of school because of the pathetic nature of the schools," PTUZ said in the report.
But because of their age, the young sex workers or "ZviTokwe Murkosi" have become a sudden hit and are on demand from the elderly men who visit different night clubs.
"It's really a difficult job for us but we are on demand as the men prefer us to the older sex workers. The say we are still fresh hence they flock on us," Lisa added.
Others, however, said their age had also a fair share of disadvantage in the discharge of their duties. She narrated that some elderly men take advantage of their age to decline paying after getting service from them.
But the young girls vowed to continue with their new profession because they did not have an option.