Tuesday, 23 March 2010 18:20

GHANA: Paying Families to Curb Child Trafficking

Accra — Eight-year-old Nana Yaw, who is being treated at Central Region's Winneba Government Hospital for a severe respiratory infection, was sold by his mother for US$50 in 2008.

For nearly two years his owners forced him to dive for several hours a day to collect fishing nets in Lake Volta.
"I ate once a day and I was severely beaten any time I complained I was sick," he told IRIN.

He contracted a severe respiratory infection. His owners dumped him at the hospital and left.

His doctor, Dodi Abdallah, told IRIN: "He was nearly unconscious when we received him. Nobody was here for him. We were just lucky someone knew his mother."

Nana Yaw's mother, Susan Aidoo, told IRIN why she sold her son. "His father died and the family accused me of killing him so they refused to perform the funeral rites. I needed money so I gave my son to a friend who gave me some money for the funeral and to buy some toffees for me to sell," she said in tears.

Every year in Ghana hundreds of children are sold into forced labour by parents desperate to raise money for the upkeep of the family, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Some 28 percent of Ghana's 22 million people are poor, according to the 2010 human poverty index which measures people's ability to live a healthy life beyond age 40, access education, basic healthcare and clean water.

"The child trafficking crisis we are witnessing in Ghana is fundamentally a result of stark and unacceptable levels of poverty," Daniel Kwaku Sam, the IOM's counter-trafficking field coordinator, told IRIN.

IOM, the lead agency working with the government to stop child trafficking in Ghana, liaises with the National Board for Small-Scale Industries to pay families in vulnerable rural communities US$160 per child to keep them at home and send them to school.

Parents are trained in micro-enterprise skills - animal-rearing, tailoring, or catering for example - to help them boost their family income, Doris Boi, IOM counter-trafficking coordinator in the Volta Region, told IRIN.

Financial empowerment

"It is good to rescue these kids, but without financially empowering the parents, the likelihood that they might end up enslaved again is very high," IOM's Sam told IRIN. "Prosecution [for trafficking] is good, but in a culture that encourages child labour and where there is abject poverty, we need to focus on how to lift people out of poverty first."

Ghana's Human Trafficking Act was passed in 2005, but the first trafficking prosecution was only on 27 January 2010 when a woman was imprisoned for buying two boys for $65 to work in the fishing industry, according to Women and Children's Minister Akua Sena Dansua.

Since 2002 IOM has intercepted 684 children trafficked by their parents to aid fishermen, and given thousands of families support to keep their children.

Boi says the number of children internally trafficked is dropping each year, as is the number of rescued children who go on to be re-trafficked. This is a sign that the scheme is working, she pointed out.

The government launched a national database project in February 2010, which aims to gather accurate data on how many people are trafficked within and outside the country; where they are sent; the ages of victims; and who is selling their children. Only once it is set up, Boi said, would the government and IOM be able to gauge their impact accurately.

Meanwhile IOM is discussing whether or not to extend the scheme - currently in place in the Central and Volta regions only - to elsewhere in the region.

Source: IRIN News
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