POINTE NOIRE, Republic of the Congo, 21 September 2011 – The governments of the Republic of Congo and Benin have signed a land mark agreement to protect children from child trafficking, which in recent years has become a major problem in the Congo.
Congolese Minister of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity, Ms. Emilienne Raoul and her Benin counterpart, Ms Fatouma Amadou Djibril, Minister of Family, Social Affairs, National Solidarity, the Disabled and Elderly signed the agreement in Congo’s port city of Pointe Noire, the area with the highest number of trafficked and exploited children from Benin.
The ceremony was attended by many important officials in Pointe Noire. The UNICEF Representative in the Republic of the Congo, Ms. Marianne Flach, was a keynote speaker at the event.
“The bilateral agreement is a major step in the recognition and in the fight against child trafficking and exploitation,” said Ms. Flach. "with the signing of the agreement, a framework is now in place to assist the two countries to prevent, identify and assist child trafficking victims as well as to prosecute offenders." she added.
The Congolese Minister Ms. Emilienne Raoul noted that since 2007 her Ministry of Social Affaires has worked closely with UNICEF to set up a system to identify trafficked children and to ensure that they are re-integrated into their communities or adopted into new families.
Ending up mainly in Pointe Noire, Congo’s bustling port city and economic capital, the trafficked children - some as young as 6 years, are mainly from West African countries, especially Benin. Traffickers lure these vulnerable children with promises of a better life. However, the children usually end up working as child slaves or in prostitution – finding themselves in a cycle of abuse and exploitation.
It is difficult to know the exact number of trafficked children in the Congo at the moment, although a 2007 UNICEF Situation Analysis put the figure at 1800. However, experts agree that the actual number is much higher.
In her speech, Ms Flach said that UNICEF strongly believes that every child has a right to be with its family, to be healthy, to be protected from violence, and to attend school.
Later in the day, Beninese Minister, Ms Fatouma Amadou Djibril, held a meeting with the Benin community in Pointe Noire and briefed them on the agreement and requested for their cooperation in fighting the problem. The following day she held a similar meeting in Brazzaville.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For additional information, please contact:
Lisile Ganga, Communication Section
Tel: + 242 055511726
Rebecca Fordham, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel + 1 212 326 7162,