The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed a new agreement between the Republic of the Congo and Benin to protect children from child trafficking, a major problem in the region in recent years.
“The bilateral agreement is a major step in the recognition and in the fight against child trafficking and exploitation,” said Marianne Flach, UNICEF Country Representative in the Republic of the Congo.
“With the signing of the agreement, a framework is now in place to assist the two countries to prevent, identify and assist child trafficking victims as well as to prosecute offenders,” she told officials at yesterday’s signing ceremony in Pointe Noire, the Republic of the Congo.
In her speech, Ms. Flach also said UNICEF strongly believes that every child has a right to be with its family, to be healthy, to be protected from violence, and to attend school.
Although the exact number of trafficked children is hard to estimate, UNICEF put the figure at 1,800 in 2007. However, experts agree that the actual figure is now much higher, according to a press release issued yesterday by the agency.
Many trafficked children – some as young as six years old – come from Benin and end up in Pointe Noire, the Republic of the Congo’s port city and economic capital, where they end up working as child slaves or in prostitution, entering a cycle of abuse and exploitation.