Governments have been faulted for failing to protect their citizens from modern-day slavery, a report by an international human rights group has stated.
According to the report, Global Slavery Index (GSI) 2023, created by an Australia-based international human rights group, Walk Free, 50 million people were living in modern slavery on any given day in 2021, throughout the 160 countries that were covered by the research.
Out of that number, Africa had the fourth highest prevalence of the grotesque practice with an estimated seven million adults and children living in modern slavery, representing 5.2 people out of every thousand persons.
“More than 3.1 million Africans were found to be in forced marriages while more than 3.8 million people were found to be in forced labour across Africa,” it stressed.
The report was launched last Wednesday by Challenging Heights on behalf of its partner, Walk Free, as a tool to mobilise powerful forces for change against human rights abuses.
The President of Challenging Heights, James Kofi Annan, who launched the report, said that countries with the highest prevalence were Eritrea with nine per cent of its population in slavery; Mauritania with 3.2 per cent of its population and South Sudan with one per cent of its population while Mauritius recorded the least at 0.2 per cent.
The prevalence rate in Ghana was 0.3 per cent.
He also said the continent was the most vulnerable to modern slavery of all regions and was home to the four most vulnerable countries.
“The report found 100 per cent levels of vulnerability in South Sudan, and 98 per cent in Somalia and Central African Republic while it was lowest in Mauritius with 20 per cent. The vulnerability score in Ghana was 45 per cent,” Mr Annan elaborated.
Mr Annan explained that African job seekers and children in pursuit of education were misled by traffickers with false promises and then subjected to forced labour abroad, such as in the Gulf States.
“For example, under the confiage (trust) system in Togo, children from rural areas are sent to cities to complete their education and live with relatives, who may force them into domestic servitude.
“Nigerian girls seeking employment as domestic helpers to help pay for schooling are also subjected to domestic servitude,” he explained further.
Mr Annan said as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of child marriages increased in Sudan, Egypt, and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), placing one in every 300 females in the region in a forced marriage.
“Women and girls living in conflict zones also experience forced and child marriage, including as a negative coping mechanism by families to protect them from further violence by fighters who abduct, marry and exploit women and girls as domestic and sexual slaves,” he added.
The organisation’s president, therefore, urged governments to immediately move from intention to effective action in addressing modern slavery.
He also said governments in Africa must ensure that adequately resourced support services were provided to all survivors of modern slavery – men, women and children.