APRIES and CenHTRO New Research Reveals High Rates of Child Trafficking & Labour in Kambia 

By Alpha Good Kamara

A study conducted by the African Programming & Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) and the Center on Human Trafficking Research & Outreach (CenHTRO) at the University of Georgia has revealed alarming statistics on child trafficking and child labor in Sierra Leone’s Kambia District. According to the research, an estimated 34% of children aged 5 to 17 in the district have experienced child trafficking, while 40% have been subjected to child labor.

The report, funded by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, sheds light on the vulnerabilities that make children susceptible to trafficking and offers new recommendations to combat this issue not only in Kambia but across the country.

The research found that trafficked children were often forced to work as domestic servants, in agriculture, or as street vendors, with little or no pay. Additionally, they were subjected to hazardous labor activities and exploited in informal foster care placements known as menpikin.

The study highlights key risk factors, such as age, economic status, educational enrollment, and gender, which play a role in making children more vulnerable to trafficking. Boys were found to have a 34% higher likelihood of being trafficked than girls.

To address the crisis, the report suggests strengthening and expanding developmental programs, raising awareness about informal foster care placements, encouraging the reporting of child trafficking and abuse, and implementing laws to combat trafficking effectively. Furthermore, financial and resource support for struggling families is recommended, including cash support and aid to farmers.

APRIES and CenHTRO work in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone, district leadership, and community groups, along with partners such as World Hope International, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Antobert Consultancy, to prevent trafficking, protect survivors, and prosecute traffickers in the country.

The findings underscore the urgent need for action to protect the rights and well-being of children in Sierra Leone, and it is hoped that the recommended interventions will help curb the prevalence of child trafficking and labor in the region.

Trafficked children were commonly forced to work as domestic servants, in agriculture, or as street vendors, often for little or no pay, according to the study, “Child Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Kambia, Sierra Leone,” funded by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Children were also made to engage in hazardous labor activities, like carrying heavy loads or being exposed to extreme heat, cold, or humidity.

Survivors described being exploited in informal foster care placements, known as menpikin, where they were made to perform domestic duties outside their home. They were forced to sell water on the street for lengthy hours and without compensation, while other children in the household were allowed to attend school. Some children were forced to work to pay for school fees.

“I was always the first to be woken up by 6 a.m. I was the one doing all the household chores while her children were still in bed. We started fish balls for sale, which was all for her benefit,” a female survivor said.

Household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions contributed to the research in Kambia, a district in the northwest of Sierra Leone that borders Guinea. This new report extends research published by APRIES in 2022 that measured child trafficking and child labor in Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province, demonstrating that both are prevalent across much of the country.

In terms of children that are vulnerable those aged 12-17  contribute  to the expenses of the household, are not enrolled in a formal school, those who are enrolled in a Koranic school, and those who are orphans have higher odds of being trafficked.

Also, Male children had 34% higher odds of being trafficked than female children.

Furthermore, there are structural factors, such as the lack of secondary schools lead to a family decision to send their child to a bigger town with a family friend or relative in order to attend school. However, when the child arrived, they were trafficked, rather than allowed to attend school as promised.

With regards recommendations, it was admonished to strengthen and expand developmental programs, especially in rural towns, through building more and improving access to secondary and primary schools, investing in qualified teachers, and expanding social and community centers for youth.

To safeguard children through awareness raising and monitoring informal foster care placements.

Encourage community members to speak up about child trafficking and child abuse by further expansion of the freedom hotline 134 and education of national and local anti-trafficking laws.

Increase efforts into implementing laws that fight against trafficking, such as through supporting the enforcement of by-laws in local communities and as well increase financial and resource support for families, including cash support for struggling families through microcredit and providing seeds to farmers.


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