By Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Two of Kenya's most illustrious runners on Friday called for the protection of children from sexual abuse so that the country can produce the next generation of runners.
Marathon world record holder Patrick Makau and former women's world marathon holder Catherine Ndereba said that unless children were protected from child sexual abuse, the country would miss out on producing champions like themselves.
"Without supporting children and shielding them away from child molesters means that we will miss a generation of runners," Ndereba said during the launch of the Meru County Marathon scheduled for Sept. 29 and which aims at raising awareness to break the silence on child sexual violence.
"Children have been tormented for a long time and it is time people spoke for them."
Saying that the community has a lot of work to do to protect children, the two-time world marathon champion and silver Olympic medalist said the marathon was a unique event that deserved the support of all as it was dedicated to the welfare of children.
"Without appropriate intervention, they are condemned to a life of pain and suffering that no one will ever understand. They are left to be mocked and ridiculed within and without as they are haunted by thoughts and fears as long as they live," said Ndereba, who also won the Boston Marathon four times.
Makau said he will take part in the event because it addressed a noble cause that was very close to his heart.
"Child sexual abuse often leads to difficulties that last throughout adulthood if the abuse issues remain untreated."
Makau, 28, set the world record in the marathon with a time of 2.03:38 at the 2011 Berlin Marathon.
Richard Wariu, the Chairman of Ripples International who is the organizers of the event said the association is committed to eliminating abuse and violence in the lives of children.
"All children have a right to grow up in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment. When you look at the tearful eyes to see the broken soul of a child that has been sexually abused, there are no words that can explain the depth of the feelings expressed," Wariu said.
"Our mandate is to reduce the incidence of all form of child abuse through development of coordinated communitywide effort to improve prevention, detection, reporting, treatment and legal redress."
He said as the vice is condemned and perpetrators prosecuted, child survivors of sexual violence, most of who are exposed to HIV infection, should be given a new lease of life.
According to a report prepared by Ripples International, one in four and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, with the majority of the rape victim being below thirteen years.
Seventy-five percent of abuses are committed by family members and additional 10 per cent are acquaintances of the child.
Between 2007 and 2011, the organization rescued 240 girls all below 15 years, of which 90 per cent were from within Meru, where the event will take place, with 70 per cent of those cases being perpetrated by close relatives.
Child sexual abuse, if not treated, leads to among other tribulations, low self-esteem, depression, self-hatred and poor body image.
It also brings about sleep problems, nightmares and self-destructive behavior including substance abuse.