The group Human Rights Watch has issued a new report that says West African governments have taken no action to stop “rampant traffic in child labor.”
The report says trafficking in child labor “occurs along numerous routes in West Africa.” English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua interviewed Jonathan Cohen, the author of the report called “Borderline Slavery: Child Trafficking in Togo.”
He says the United Nations estimates the number of trafficked children at 200,000 in 13 countries. He says Togo is illustrative of the larger regional problem. For example, the report “links child trafficking to years of desperate poverty and freezes on development assistance to Togo.” Assistance was cut off after the government was accused by the international community of not holding free and fair elections in 1993.
The Human Rights Watch report says girls work very long hours as housemaids or in markets. Boys are often put to work clearing brush, planting seeds and plowing fields for up to thirteen hours a day. Some used machetes to cut branches and were seriously wounded in accidents.
The problem of child trafficking is made worse by HIV/AIDS. That’s because many of the children are AIDS orphans or risk being infected with HIV when forced into sex work.
The report calls for West African countries to crackdown on the problem and also provide medical care and shelter for the children involved.