US Department of State commits over USD 32 million to fight human trafficking in ECOWAS region
The United States Department of State has announced a commitment of over USD 32 million in foreign assistance to combat human trafficking in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. The announcement was made at a conference attended by various stakeholders including government officials, NGOs, and international organizations in Sierra Leone.
According to reports by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, over 3.5 million Africans, mostly children, are victims of human trafficking at any given point. This makes human trafficking a critical issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
The US Department of State has signed compact partnerships with Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to combat child trafficking in all its forms. The partnerships offer a multi-year commitment with the government to achieve shared objectives. The US Department of State is also supporting evidence-driven programming in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone through their program to end modern slavery. These projects seek to improve the effectiveness of anti-trafficking interventions by collecting baseline data.
The president of ECOWAS, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, highlighted the challenges facing West Africa today, which include insecurity driven by terrorism, unconstitutional changes of government, armed rebellion, environmental crisis, and organized crime. He further stressed that human trafficking is one of the key challenges and is being driven by organized crime. Despite individual efforts by governments, human trafficking and its associated ills remain major obstacles to human security.
Dr. Touray said that the conference was an excellent venue for stakeholders to come together and discuss comprehensive approaches to combating human trafficking.
The President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, stressed the need to focus on prevention through increased education and awareness-raising at community levels, enhance support for survivors, and strengthen law enforcement and judicial response to ensure more perpetrators of human trafficking are prosecuted. The President assured that his government would implement all resolutions that would be reached in pushing forward the fight against human trafficking.
Cindy Dyer, the Ambassador at Large at the Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person at the US Department of State’s office, emphasized the need to engage survivors in meaningful ways to establish effective victim-centred and trauma-informed anti-trafficking strategies.
She said the Biden-Harris administration has prioritized survivor engagement in their own anti-trafficking work. The US recently passed new legislation making the US advisory council on human trafficking a permanent entity.
Christopher Gascon, regional director for the International Office of Migration, said that combating trafficking requires strong partnerships with governments, UN agencies, civil societies, and NGOs to make tangible progress in combating and preventing human trafficking. He also noted that since 1994, IOM has provided protection and assistance to over 100,000 victims.