VOICE OF AMERICA
Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire say they rescued 137 child trafficking victims being groomed to work on cocoa plantations or in prostitution.
Police rescued the children after surrounding the eastern town of Aboisso and carrying out a two-day search of cars, farms and nearby villages.
Officials say the children ranged in age from 6 to 17 and were brought into Côte d’Ivoire from Benin, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. The victims were in the care of a charity in Aboisso while authorities searched for their parents.
Senior police officials say they plan to increase operations to stop child trafficking.
“Ivory Coast’s image is tarnished by child trafficking,” Aboisso’s Deputy Police Chief Kouadio Yeboue Marcellin said. “We are appealing to all parents: A child’s place is at school and not on plantations.”
Côte d’Ivoire depends on cocoa and cashew crops, and poor farmers depend on inexpensive labor to pick the beans and nuts.
International chocolate companies, such as Nestlé and Hershey, have pledged to stop buying beans produced by child workers. Critics say such efforts have been only modestly successful.