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Childline gives children a lifeline

Written by Dale Hes

The lockdown caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) has not stopped non-profit organisation Childline South Africa and its 86 counsellors from assisting children and families calling in to seek help.

Childline provides a 24-hour, toll-free telephone counselling service in all nine provinces. Since the start of lockdown, the organisation has received an increased number of calls.

It has assisted with providing information about COVID-19 and responding to cases of abuse and neglect. Other issues have included children being separated from their parents, parents drinking and not obeying lockdown regulations, and many more.

Nokulunga Mnisi is a Childline crisis counsellor from Mpumalanga who has been taking calls from children, young people, families and community members.

She says children and young people may be experiencing increased levels of emotional and mental stress during this time.

Mnisi often deals with cases of child neglect and gives advice to children reporting cases of abusive parents.

“Talking is part of breaking the chain of child abuse. Once you talk out, change will start to happen, no matter how long it takes.”

During her work, Mnisi has also seen how the community has pulled together to help each other.

“Neighbours are looking out for each other and some have called in about suspected abuse cases. As ever, grandparents are playing an important role by stepping in when children’s parents are not available or are unable to cope.”

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) South Africa is one of Childline’s partners. Mayke Huijbregts, Chief of Social Policy and Child Protection for UNICEF South Africa, says that organisations such as Childline are crucial during this time.

“Children are much more anxious, fearful and emotionally vulnerable. They are not able to play with their friends or go to school. So Childline is filling a gap in their lives.”

*If you are a child, parent, relative or concerned citizen, you can call Childline toll-free on 08000 55 555 to report suspected abuse or neglect, or for any other information about safety and mental health during the pandemic