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19.04.2005 General News

Trafficking, Forced Labor Leaves Scars in Ghana

By U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information
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Migration organization works to free the "fishing boys"Children who have been released from forced labor in Ghana's fishing industry are suffering from both physical and mental traumas, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). With support from the U.S. State Department, the IOM has been helping local organizations for more than two years in an effort to liberate children who had been sold into forced labor by impoverished families in Yeji, on the shores of Lake Volta.  The project has brought the release of 537 youngsters so far, most recently a group of 107 in February. In an April 15 briefing, IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said the children are medically fit to attend school, but they will still need a minimum of two years of medical evaluations and treatment to recover.  Physically, the children suffer from illnesses such as malaria, and eye, stomach and head ailments; mentally, the youngsters show evidence of post-traumatic stress disorders, the spokeswoman said. A 2003 article by IOM Project Director Ernest Taylor describes the children's plight. The State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs publication Responses to Human Trafficking examines trafficking in West Africa and other parts of the world.  Following are the IOM's April 15 press briefing notes: (begin text) International Organization for Migration [Geneva, Switzerland] Press Briefing Notes - 15 April 2005 Spokesperson: Jemini Pandya Ghana - Severe Toll On Mental and Physical Health of Trafficked Children The high level of trauma suffered by children trafficked for forced labour into fishing communities in Yeji in Ghana, has resulted in major physical and mental health problems for the victims, according to IOM. IOM has so far rescued 537 children who had been sold by their impoverished parents to fishermen in Yeji, on the northern shores of Lake Volta. In February 2005, a group of 107 children were rescued and have since spent time trying to recover from their ordeals in a rehabilitation centre in Accra before being reunited with their parents at the end of the month. Although most of the children have now been declared medically fit to return home and attend school, they will all need a minimum of two years of constant medical evaluations and treatment to fully recover. The most severe illnesses affecting the children are bilharzia, malaria, amoebiasis and chronic eye, stomach and head ailments. In addition, there is evidence of post-traumatic stress disorders, reflecting the acute trauma the children suffered during their servitude. As a result, they will need extensive counselling. Boys were often forced to dive into Lake Volta's muddy and dangerous waters to free tangled nets and worked extremely long hours to cast and retrieve nets. Some have died in the process and almost all were regularly beaten and poorly fed. For the 430 children who have already been reintegrated into their communities, IOM will be running two mobile clinics to provide primary healthcare services. The trauma the children suffered is still having an impact on their physical and mental health and they will need counselling and medical assistance on a regular basis for some time to come. IOM is preparing to rescue another group of children shortly, but there is no clear picture of the extent of child trafficking into fishing communities in Ghana. Upon IOM's request, UNICEF has committed to funding two baseline research studies on child trafficking in the Central and Volta regions, both of which begin in June. This programme, which is carried out in cooperation with the Ghanaian authorities is funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the US State Department. (end text) (Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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