Ivory Coast Rescues 137 Children in Raid on Traffickers

(Bloomberg) -- Authorities in Ivory Coast rescued 137 children during a two-day swoop on human traffickers as the world’s top cocoa producer seeks to root out a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny.

Police arrested 12 suspected traffickers and took in six women “at risk” during a Jan. 9-10 raid in the southeastern town of Aboisso, Yves Zogbo Junior, a spokesman for the Minister of Security, said by phone on Monday. The operation was funded by the National Committee for Monitoring of Actions to Combat Child Trafficking, Exploitation and Labor, which is led by First Lady Dominique Ouattara.

Cocoa producing nations in West Africa have come under increased pressure to clean up the industry, with more than 2.1 million children working in plantations in Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana, according to Cocoa Barometer 2018, published by several non-governmental organizations including Oxfam and Voice Network. Ivory Coast approved 76 billion CFA francs ($129 million) in funds in 2020 to combat the problem.

Last year, two U.S. senators asked custom officials to block Ivorian cocoa imports unless the shipments can be certified as free of child labor. An investigation into the matter started in October.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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