The girl's mom locked her in the Diep River shack and left weeks ago. Picture: Daily Voice

Cape Town - The Department of Social Development has come to the rescue of a little girl who was allegedly being abused by men who gave her food in return

The child, believed to be five or six years old, was taken in by social workers on Thursday from where she had been living on her own in a shack at The Gatjie informal settlement in Diep River.

A woman at the settlement called the Daily Voice for assistance after the girl told her she had been abused by men, who would buy her food in return.

The child said her mother had locked her up in the shack and left a few weeks ago.

It’s believed the mother sleeps at the Plumstead cemetery, but the woman says she has not been back to get her little girl.

She says neighbours broke down the door when they heard the child’s cries for help, and have been trying to assist her.

But in the settlement, consisting of about 60 shacks and scores of unemployed people scurrying for a living, there was no help for her.

This week the woman noticed the girl sleeping alone, and she took the child to her home.

But the woman, who has two children of her own, says she can’t afford to feed an extra mouth and asked the Department of Social Development to step in.

“Her mother is a well-known prostitute and has been leaving her like this since she was a baby. The people around the camp said she was taking advantage of their kindness,” says the woman.

“This girl cries to be with her mother. She says she has a brother and sister.”

“She told me she gives men oral sex and they give her food. Don’t these (pigs) have a heart? How can they take advantage of a helpless child?”

Sihle Ngobese, the spokesperson for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, confirmed the child was removed from the camp on Thursday afternoon.

He said the girl would be assessed and put in a place of safety while an investigation was under way.

Read the update on this story here.