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July 13, 2006

West, Central African nations sign multilateral accord against trafficking

West And Central African Nations Join Forces To End Child Trafficking
A multilateral accord against the trafficking of women and children was signed here yesterday, as UNICEF and its partners spearheaded a joint ministerial conference of 26 West and Central African countries, representatives of European governments and the International Labour Organization.

"No country in West and Central Africa can claim not to face the problem of human trafficking," said UNICEF's director for the region, Esther Guluma, at the opening of the two-day conference.

"Only a holistic approach can successfully stop this exploitation of children that is a violation of their human rights, dignity and freedom of movement," she added. "One of the most efficient ways is the connection of a regional partnership. This conference is a milestone in building this collaboration."


Children exploited and abused

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked across porous borders throughout West and Central Africa. In Nigeria, for example, where the borders with Benin and Cameroon are 773 km and 1,690 km long, respectively, it is difficult to control trafficking.

Now widely considered a form of modern-day slavery, this practice has its roots in an old tradition based on the quest for a better life. Children would be placed with relatives in cities to receive an education, in return for helping out in the home.

Often, parents don't know - or don't want to know - what happens to their children who end up being exploited, physically and mentally abused as domestic workers or forced into prostitution.

An end to trafficking

"You are not a human being if you do that to your own children. People have to take responsibility for these crimes. It has to be punished," said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Alassane Biga.

[...] Financial assistance for the poorest families and other initiatives - like mobile cinemas that screen educational films for people living in remote villages - help to inform vulnerable families about the reality of child trafficking. There's hope that the joint ministerial conference now wrapping up in Abuja can go one step further toward putting an end to this illicit and dehumanizing practice.

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