There is growing concern about the number of Zimbabwean children crossing the border illegally into Mozambique to escape deteriorating conditions at home. The alarm has been raised by the Mozambique office of Save the Children, which says many of the youngsters are AIDS orphans in search of a better life. However, many subsequently fall prey to prostitution and abuse.

It is not known how many Zimbabwean children enter Mozambique illegally each day but a report by Save the Children released at the end of May says that large numbers of these children are alone and extremely vulnerable. According to the same document, many girls end up in the sex trade along the transport corridor linking landlocked Zimbabwe with the Mozambican port of Beira, or working in informal crowded bars called barracas where English-speaking staff are considered a status symbol. Boys often find employment on farms, working long hours for exploitative wages.

Save the Children is now looking for ways to educate children about the dangers of emigrating alone, as well as asking for training in childrens rights for law enforcement agencies and border police.

Poor economic policies, hunger, unemployment, homelessness and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe have forced many people to leave the country for neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique in particular.