The Congolese government, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Justice and Peace Diocesan Commission (CJP) have signed an agreement to work together to stop child trafficking in the country.
At a meeting of the three parties in the country’s capital, Brazzaville, CJP coordinator Father Félicien Mavoungou said they wanted to find ways to prevent this type of exploitation of children.
“The problem exists and we have to start sending the children home,” he said. “As a test project, we will reintegrate 20 children. This is the starting point. Then we will evaluate which strategy works to free children who are victims of trafficking.”
The project will cost US$245,000 and focus on rehabilitation and reintegration, as well as education programmes.
A UNICEF and Congolese government report, published on 19 July, said child trafficking occurred not only in Congo, but also in neighbouring countries. Pointe-Noire, the economic capital situated on the Atlantic shore, is the focal point for children brought in from Benin, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Most children are brought into Congo when they are nine years old. Those from DRC accompany traffickers or intermediaries who promise them an easy visa for Europe or South Africa,” the report said.
UNICEF Congo Representative Koen Vanormelingen said: “There has been female sexual exploitation, especially of girls from 12 to 25 years old coming from DRC. The situation is not tolerable. We have to put an end to it and re-establish children's rights and dignity.”
Emilienne Raoul, Congolese Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Family, said the situation was “unacceptable in the 21st century. Our children have to stop experiencing such degrading treatment. We have to protect our children and guarantee them a proper start in life.”