Over 600 trafficked children sent to work in fishing communities along the Volta Lake in both the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions have been rescued by Partners in Community Development Programme (PACODEP).
Over 100 others who engaged in child labour in various communities have also been sold into slavery, some for as low as GH?50 for three years, Weekend Finder has learnt.
Communities along the Volta Lake in the Volta Region where these children are trafficked to include Old Nanasewi, Cement, Basare, Ketsense, Ofoase, Nkatinkwan, Old Kadentwe, Sablakope, Kotakota, and Kporviegyi.
In the Brong Ahafo Region, trafficked children are sent to Lalakope, Yebedanagya, Bakpakope, Adakope, Manoyikope, Gakope, Old Nkomi, Atikagome, Wayokope, Kwasistsekope, and a host of others.
Living in miserable conditions and working long hours every day, these kids are exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta.
The Weekend Finder gathered that many of the victims do not see anything wrong with what they are doing instead of being in school.
The depletion of fish stocks is one of the key reasons why children are needed as workers in the fishing industry.
In addition to being cheap labour, the small nimble fingers of the children are useful in releasing the fish from the smaller nets.
Another task that trafficked children frequently perform is diving to disentangle the fish nets from the numerous tree stumps that are scattered in the lake. As nets are often dragged along the bottom of the lake, they tend to get stuck.
Diving is a dangerous job that can have dire consequences for the children, from catching water-borne diseases such as bilharzia and guinea worm to death from drowning.
Partners in Community Development Programme (PACODEP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based at Kete Krachi in the Volta Region, is working hard to rescue all trafficked children working on the Volta Lake.
Project Co-ordinator of PACODEP, George Achibra told Weekend Finder that though a number of children have been rescued, there are many more working under unacceptable conditions in the area.
“Many more children have been trafficked and are working under very heinous conditions; it’s very pathetic. We are collaborating with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, International Organisation for Migration, Geneva Global, Touch a life Foundation, among others, to rescue these children. There are 140 children in other homes because when we started we were not having a place to see them,” he revealed.
Mr Achibra said PACODEP is currently keeping 65 of the rescued children at the Village of Life.
He identified poverty as a major cause of trafficking, saying: “Some of the children are given out for as low as GH?200.”
“We recently rescued two boys who are twins; our investigations revealed that each of the boys was given out for GH?150 for three years, which means the masters would pay GH?50 for each child per year,” he added.
Apart from this, he also revealed that girls trafficked along the Volta Lake are at times raped by their masters.
A 12-year-old girl told Weekend Finder that she was raped by her master on several occasions.
Mr Achibra called on other NGOs to support PACODEP to cater for the rescued children, and commended World Vision Ghana for providing them with 20 dual desks.
PACODEP was established in 2003 to help rescue trafficked children working along the Volta Lake. It has so far reunited 460 rescued children with their parents.