afrol News, 18 April - Child slavery in West Africa will be on the agenda at a Red Cross summit to be held in Dakar, Senegal next week following the saga of the suspect slave ship which has drawn international attention to the issue of child trafficking in the region.
- If anything, we need to encourage and support the efforts of our member National Societies to do all they can to end this outrage against humanity, Mr. Didier Cherpitel, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said yesterday. "Enterprises which benefit from child labour should be named and shamed," he continued.
The ship that had been suspected of carrying child labourers docked in the port of Cotonou early on Tuesday, with far fewer people on board than expected. 139 people were found on the 'Etinero', including about 20 children. Some of the children were not in "great shape, visibly sick," a UNICEF spokesperson said in Cotonou.
Attention had been focused on the ship since late last week after it was reported that it was carrying up to 250 child labourers and had been refused permission to dock at ports in Cameroon and Gabon. Its return to Cotonou, from where it sailed about two weeks ago, has not ended the uncertainty and speculation surrounding the incident.
The Benin Red Cross had 40 first aid personnel on stand-by for the arrival of the cargo vessel Etireno when it finally docked in Cotonou earlier today. The Red Cross provided children on board with food and emergency care while five were brought to hospital.
Mr. Gabriel Achade, the Secretary General of the Benin Red Cross, said the Red Cross has set up special committees in some 100 villages across the country to educate parents on the dire consequences of selling their children into forced labour. "These committees are especially active in the villages most at risk. They bring help to all children in difficult situations," he said.
Mr. Bekele Geleta, Head of the International Federation's Africa Department, said 16 National Red Cross Societies from the region would be joined by representatives of partner Red Cross Societies to discuss support for Red Cross programmes in the region next week.
Next week's meeting will consider further steps that can be taken by Red Cross staff and volunteers to combat the traffic in children such as a proposal to set up teams to monitor the main ports and to expand dissemination of information about child labour and trafficking.