A top Ghanaian official has promised action following a CNN report into child slavery on Lake Volta.
Around 20,000 children work on the lake, enslaved by fishermen they call “master.” Most of them come to the lake from hundreds of miles away. They are sold by their desperately poor parents to human traffickers, sometimes for as little as $250.
“It’s a heartbreaking story, and it’s a matter of concern for the government and the people of Ghana,” Ghana’s Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told CNN Thursday.
He promised specific action “aimed at rescuing the victims, rehabilitating them, reintegrating them into society (and) prosecuting persons responsible.”
Adam, one of the child slaves CNN interviewed, said that “every morning we wake up and we go to the lake, we paddle, remove the nets. Then we come back, remove the fish, prepare the nets for the next casting and around 4pm, we go back to cast the net.”
He estimated that he had worked for the man he called “master” for about three years.”
“I don’t want to be here,” Adam said. “I want to go to school, but I’m forced to be here.”
The government in Ghana was aware of the problem ahead of CNN’s reporting and working, albeit slowly, to remove children.
In 2017, the country hosted its “National Child Labor Day” in the lakeside town of Kete Krachi, to call awareness to the issue. There is also an effort to register all the boats on the lake, which could make it easier to track down and punish fishermen using child slaves.
Nkrumah acknowledged the need to tackle the long-term problems which lead to child trafficking and exploitation, which he said: “breaks our hearts.”
CNN spoke to activists in Ghana who work with the children to rescue them from a life of slavery on the lake. They said that significant support is required to ensure the children do not end up being re-trafficked.
Nkrumah vowed to “the entire world and most importantly the victims” that “we are committed to ensuring that the resources that we’ve started making available this year will be improved as the years go by, and that we will be able to tackle this problem comprehensively.”
“We would like the CNN crew to come back and work with us, back on the late to also examine first hand, also some of the efforts that we are putting into dealing with a situation like this,” Nkrumah added.