Accra, Nov. 28, GNA - The Department of Social Welfare at the weekend officially opened the first shelter centre for trafficked children in Ghana to serve as a transit point to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into their communities.
The 39,000 dollar-project funded by the International Labour Organization (ILO), would provide quality care, protect children's right, give rescued trafficked children good health, education, recreation and improve the physical surroundings of trafficked children. Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, Minister of Manpower Development, Youth and Employment, launching the project noted that child protection must be a multi-sectoral responsibility as no individual could undertake the whole process single-handedly.
He said: "At this shelter I envisage that the children will be taken through counselling to overcome whatever trauma they may have gone through at the hands of their former masters." Mr Adda who is also the Member of Parliament for Navrongo, advised officials at the Department of Social Welfare to ensure that the children ended up with their parents.
"While emphasizing the sensitisation of the communities, parents and guardians, they must be informed that there is now legislation in place and offenders may be prosecuted," he said.
The Minister warned that the human trafficking law, which was awaiting the assent of President John Agyekum Kufuor provided punishment for perpetrators of child trafficking, adding that the law must be forcefully brought home to our fisher folk.
Mr Jack Dawson, Director of the Association for People for Practical Life Education (APPLE), the nongovernmental organization (NGO) that went to the villagers to rescue the children, said the 20 children rescued were aged between five years and 20 years, comprising 11 boys and nine girls.
He said the parents of the children confessed to trafficking them after they had been educated on the harmful effects of child trafficking.
Mr Dawson said most of the children had contracted bilharzias and had to be treated before they were sent back to their parents. Sharing the challenges he encountered in rescuing the children, he said most of the parents of the trafficked children had requested for monthly "chop money" to enable them to look after the children. He said some of the parents had been trained in soap making, dressmaking, tie and dye making and other small-scale income generating businesses to enable them to look after the children.
Mr Matthew Dally, National Programme Coordinator of ILO, appealed to Ghanaians to be vigilant in places where they lived and to report any suspicious characters to the law enforcement agencies now that the Human Trafficking Law had been passed in Parliament.
He urged the Department of Social Welfare to provide post shelter follow-ups to the children and their families to ensure that the children were not re-trafficked.
"The ILO considers child trafficking as a heinous crime against humanity and a modern form of slavery and strictly frowns on it," Mr Dally said.