Every year hundreds of Ghanaian Children, some as young as five years old, trek miles into captivity sometimes beyond the borders of the country having been sold by their parents to strangers.
They are abused and exploited by their new owners to make money. These kids are sold at prices ranging between 150,000 cedis and five million cedis.
On Tuesday, 25 of these trafficked children were reunited with their parents in Ekumpoano, a small village in the Central region. The children were rescued by the International Organisation for Migration.
Joy News' Evans Mensah reports that the children, wearing white T-shirts and blue jeans and carrying heavy pink bags, stepped out from an air conditioned van onto the sandy earth of Ekumpoano, a small village along the coast in the Central region.
They are between six and 17 years old. Some have tears in their eyes, as they embrace their waiting parents. Some have not seen their own mothers and fathers in years. That is because they sold them to people they did not know.
Adjoa Nyenyanu is ten years old. Her mother sold her to a fisherman in Ketekrachi three years ago. Adjoa told Joy News she still remembers her mother's parting words.
“My mother called me one night and told me she will want me to go to school but she had no money. She said a rich friend of hers will be coming over the next morning for us. She promised the woman will put us in school if I agree to go with her.”
But when Adjoa arrived in her new home in Ketekrachi, she did not go to school. Instead, she was put to work collecting fishing nets on Lake Volta. Adjoa is one of hundreds of Ghanaian children who are trafficked internally, sold by poor parents to strangers.
There are no exact figures on child trafficking but officials of the International Organisation for Migration say the phenomenon is thriving.
Adjoa is the eldest of four children. Her mother sold all of them to a stranger. She said she was allowed food just once a day, made to work long hours, and lived in constant fear.
“We are forced to go under the water to remove nets that have been cast the previous day. Anytime she faults us she beat us with a tree stump she uprooted from the Volta Lake. I remember when I was forced to fan fire with my mouth whilst kneeling down for hours as a punishment.”
Adjoa stands hand in hand with her younger siblings. They stare up at their mother as she struggles to explain why she sold them. Abena Nyenyanu is a porridge seller. She makes 30,000 cedis a day. She sold all four children for 600,000 cedis. She said she used the money to bury her late husband.
“I was in great need. We agreed she could have them for five years with regular visits from me but I never saw them till today. I regret what I did and remember crying without control when they left. I am very sorry. I just ask for their forgiveness.”
Parliament passed the Child Trafficking Act in 2005 to stem the tide of parents selling their own children, but experts said little has changed.
The Minister for Women and Children Affairs Hajia Alima Mahama noted that this time government will rigorously enforce the law.
Nana Korsah VII, the chief of the village, said enforcing the law may work, but giving parents good jobs would do more to uproot the cause of the problem.
But what will happen to these children once they are handed back to their parents? Poverty is still rife in their communities, many parents say they simply cannot afford to raise them. So while these children sing to celebrate their reunion, other children continue to say goodbye to their parents, as the trafficking continues.