Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When rescue is not the end, but a beginning

Excerpts from an article on Ghanian child victims of trafficking in the July 2008 IOM Migration Magazine:

“The money I get from my parents to buy food at school is not enough and I am hungry,” pipes up an older boy.

Of all the refrains, this is the most often repeated.

The gathering on the beach is a weekly mentoring session for a group of former child victims of trafficking in Cape Coast in Ghana’s Central Region and an opportunity for the children to unburden their woes, get some advice, and some tutoring help with their schoolwork. Organized by Ghana’s Education Service, the mentoring is part of a package of services being provided by IOM, various government ministries and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to help Ghanaian child trafficking victims recover from their trauma and reintegrate into families and communities.

Since 2003, with funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees (PRM), IOM has rescued nearly 650 children in Ghana knowingly or unknowingly trafficked by parents to work in fishing communities on Lake Volta in the belief they would be fed, educated and taught a useful trade.

The reality is often different. Forced to work painfully long hours doing heavy and dangerous work because owners or ‘masters’ can’t afford to pay adults to do their jobs, the children are also severely underfed and often abused physically and verbally.

Food- the Main Issue

Food, Mavis Narh says, is the issue in the counselling sessions with trafficked children. “If we could feed these children properly, we would see significant results in just a few short months.”

Faustina Amegashie-Aheto, head of a clinical unit in a district in the Volta region where 90 per cent of the children rescued by IOM live, would agree. A health assessment of 178 children a year after their rescue revealed that 38 per cent of the children were still suffering from stunted growth while 62 per cent were underweight. Although de-worming and improved food intake meant that these figures were a vast improvement on those just gleaned after the children’s rescue, they highlight the enormous work ahead to improve the children’s health.

Challenge of Finishing School

Julia Damalie of the Ghana Education Service and in charge of girl and child education in his district recognises the difficulties older trafficked children face when going back to school. “We may need to consider allowing the children to jump years if they have the ability. We know that some children would much rather not go to school any more because of this age difference issue and instead learn a trade but there is no such facility to provide this at the moment,” she explains.

“At the moment, the retention rate is over 90 per cent but that is because of our sponsorship. The reality is that if 50 per cent of these children actually go on and finish their schooling, the programme would be successful. But we won’t know this for several years,” says Jo Rispoli of IOM in Ghana.

There are also other emerging long-term issues that will bear on the outcome...

“We’ve made a great deal of progress but many challenges remain. The key is to secure enough funding to ensure that the future holds a promise for all the children,” adds Rispoli.
To contribute or to sponsor a child through IOM’s rescue and reintegration programme, please click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment