Child trafficking in Africa sees thousands enslaved, many less than 10-years-old

Child trafficking in Africa sees thousands enslaved, many less than 10-years-old

Lake Volta in Ghana, West Africa, is the world’s largest man-made lake and sustains thousands of lives.

But much of its fishing industry is built on the backs of trafficked children, most younger than 10 years old.

Ebenezer was only 6 when a strange man arrived at his grandmother’s house with promises of income and regular meals. “Call me Uncle,” the man said, but he was no uncle the boy had ever seen. 

For the next three years of labour and heartache working the lake, Ebenezer was paid a total of US$50. He was just a boy, and he had become a slave.

The Akosombo Dam at the lake’s southern end has played a major role in meeting Ghana’s needs for drinking water and electricity. The lake is the source of life for scores of small settlements that cluster at its banks, but its provision comes at a grave cost.

Children trafficked to the lake, like Ebenezer, endure dangerous and difficult conditions. They’re subjected to intense violence, work long hours and have their food and pay with held

CEO of Compassion Australia, Clare Steele, says “Parents and extended family of vulnerable children are approached by traffickers with promises of good pay, a good education and good conditions. But the reality is nothing short of slavery for these children.”

The children are deprived of medical attention, education and recreation. Many have spoken about experiencing sleep deprivation, malnutrition, sexual abuse and grievous injuries inflicted by paddles, heavy ropes or even electrical cables.

When they refuse to dive to free the tangled nets, they are pushed or bludgeoned overboard. When they fall asleep or move too slowly to do their masters’ bidding, they are beaten. When they complain or try to escape, they are denied food and water.

Henry Tetteh Amanor is a centre director at one of Compassion’s local partners in Ghana. He believes child trafficking can’t be stopped without addressing its root cause: poverty.

“If you had three children who are not in school because of lack of funds, and someone takes one away to be put into school—and even gives you money with which you can register the other two—why wouldn’t you do it?” Henry says.

“Parents love their children. They try their best. But they don’t know the consequences because the recruiters lie to them. And when you are poor, you are vulnerable.”

Compassion Australia works in over 25 countries to transform the lives of children in poverty, including those vulnerable to trafficking, through their holistic child development program. Through a holistic child development program, children’s long-term development is encouraged by providing education along with support for their families to ensure they have a safe home with food and necessities.

Through partnerships with supporters across Australia, local churches are enabled to care for children and their families living in extreme poverty, who in turn can then empower others in their own country.

For Ebenezer, his release came through the brave efforts of his grandmother and local Compassion partner. He has suffered through great trauma but survived. In the years since he left the lake, Ebenezer has been registered with the Compassion program, protected by his grandmother, nurtured by the love of his local church, and encouraged by his sponsor, Daniel.

Key Statistics (UNODC Human Trafficking)

  • -In 2018 about 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries.
  • -50 per cent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 per cent were exploited for forced labour.
  • -Female victims continue to be the primary targets. Women make up 46% and girls 19% of all victims of trafficking.
  • -Globally, one in every three victims detected is a child.
  • -The share of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled, while the share of boys has increased five times over the past 15 years.


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