UNICEF calls for concerted action to fight child trafficking in Africa

23 April 2004

With child trafficking affecting more African countries than any other type of trafficking, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called on governments, law enforcement officials, education authorities, local communities and the media to unite in fighting the scourge.

With child trafficking affecting more African countries than any other type of trafficking, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called on governments, law enforcement officials, education authorities, local communities and the media to unite in fighting the scourge.

“Trafficking is among the worst violations of child rights in the world,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement launching a new report issued by the agency’s Innocenti Research Centre, based in Florence, Italy. “If we are to put an end to this brazen trade, we need courageous government leaders who will criminalize the trafficking of children in all its forms. Failure to do so is an abuse of children.”

Trafficking of human beings affects every country in Africa for which data is available, either as countries of origin or destination, according to the report, which assembles and analyzes data from across the continent.

Although there are no reliable estimates on actual number of those trafficked, the number of countries reporting trafficking in children is twice that of those reporting trafficking in women, according to the report, launched in Cotonou in the West African country of Benin at a meeting of African Union ministers of labour and social affairs.

“Children will only be free from trafficking when they live in a protective environment which shields them from this unconscionable violation of their rights,” Ms. Bellamy said in her statement from New York.

A protective environment includes being in school, having strong laws punishing those who exploit children, a government truly committed to fighting the practice and a community aware of the risks children face, UNICEF said. It also means that media raise awareness, that law enforcement is free from corruption, and that strong monitoring systems are in place to identify communities at risk.

The report looks at information from 53 African countries. Trafficking does not remain within Africa. In 34 per cent of African countries, the trade flows to Europe, and in 26 per cent to the Middle East and Arab states. Trafficking within national borders is very common, occurring in 8 out of every 10 African countries.

Root causes, often differing from country to country, include the collapse of a child's protective environment due to conflict, economic hardship and discrimination. Early marriage and lack of birth registration further increase the vulnerability of children and women exploitation. Poverty can create a desperate situation for many women and children, making them marks for manipulation.

 

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