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Trafficking of West and Central African children on the rise, UN agency reports

Trafficking of West and Central African children on the rise, UN agency reports

Reporting a rise in the trafficking of children in West and Central Africa, the International Labour Organization (ILO) today urged a concerted regional response to combat this scourge.

In a new report funded by the United States Department of Labour, the ILO says that while there have been some cases of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, most cases involved labour exploitation such as domestic work, work in plantations, small trade, begging and soliciting.

The report blames this trend on a number of factors, including the decline throughout the region in the extended family system. Traffickers usually make money and job proposals in order to persuade parents to send their children away, but eventually neither the child nor their parents are paid what was pledged.

Trafficked children can work from 10 to 20 hours a day, carry heavy loads, operate dangerous tools and lack adequate food or drink, according to the report. Nigeria reports that one out of five trafficked children die of illness or mishaps. Others succumb to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

"Traumatized by abominable working conditions, ill-treatment and disease, children lose their human dignity and develop a feeling of being outcasts," the ILO says. "This can lead to crime, drug consumption or long term mental disorders."

The report recommends the adoption of a sub-regional plan of action to combat the problem, including research, awareness-raising, training, strengthening the legal and institutional framework, direct assistance to victims and bilateral collaboration for repatriation and the extradition of traffickers.

The report is based on the results of operational reviews, drawn largely from interviews with children and parents, conducted in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Togo.