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Malawi/Zambia. Children caught in a web of trafficking

Most children are trafficked both locally and internationally by gangs. We look at the situation in Malawi and Zambia

Recently the police have intercepted 23 children who were about to cross the border between Malawi and Tanzania in a trafficking racket. According to National Child Protection Officer Alexander Ngwala of Malawi Police Service: “It is difficult to track down on child traffickers because children do not have any IDs for easy identification”.

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He pointed out that: “Child trafficking is done in some cases with the knowledge of the parents and guardian most of whom are desperately in need of cash due to poverty”.
Poverty is high especially in the rural areas. In Malawi 50.7% of the population live below the national poverty line. As a result many children in Malawi are forced to work as child labour to provide for their families. In some cases families have pushed their children to work in harsh conditions such as estates and mines either in Malawi or neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania.

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Most of the children trafficked are within the age of 6 and 20. But there are also boys and girls aged 20 and 25 who are also trafficked to countries such as South Africa as part of the human trafficking syndicate. In Malawi out of the 15.4 million people, 17.2% are children aged between 5 and 9 while 17.1% and 14.7% are children aged between 10-14 and 15-19 respectively. Most people being trafficked are those aged between 5 and 19.
This is the group that is prone to child or human trafficking in Malawi. Between 15 and 25 years of age is one of the most productive group in terms of employment, that is according to the 2015 Labour Force Survey.
Child trafficking is also done internally. The police admit that some children are taken away from their homes to work in estates in other areas within the country with the aim of making money for their families.

Zambia, within the country

Zambia faces a similar situation to Malawi when it comes to child trafficking. According to Henry Kabwe, Media Network on Child Rights and Development Coordinator in Zambia:  “Child labor is rampant in tobacco, cotton and domestic work arenas. There is a lot of physical abuse as parents think the best way children can learn is through spanking”.
He said the issue of child trafficking was not in the laws of Zambia before the early 2000s.

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It was brought about when a Congolese woman was trafficking children to South Africa and the traffickers went scot free because of lack of legislation. “Thereafter, a Namibian national was found with children from Zambia on his way to his country. It points to the fact that the problem is there but it has not been focused on and people may be going scot free. The most rampant one is where young girls are trafficked within the country to work in homes as domestic workers”. He said the Zambian Government has not taken steps to curb international cross border trafficking but the introduction of minimum wages somehow curbed the domestic trafficking of domestic workers. But he said the law is not being enforced.
Zambia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most trafficking occurs “within the country’s borders and involves women and children from rural areas exploited in cities in domestic servitude or other types of forced labor in the agriculture, textile, mining, and construction sectors, as well as in small businesses such as bakeries”.

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Unicef  says trafficking deprives children of their childhood, exposes them to violence, abuse and exploitation including sexual abuse and exploitation, and violates their rights to be protected, grow up in a family environment, gain access to education and reach their full potential. Both Malawi and Zambia have laws that aim at protecting children from both early marriages and trafficking but the battle will take time to be won as long as poverty remains the main factor in the web.

Raphael Mweninguwe

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