Child Trafficking in East Africa

Kinderhandel in Oost-Afrika Terre des Hommes

An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa became victims of trafficking between 2000 and 2013. Over a quarter of them were children. Child trafficking happens internally as well as cross-border within and outside the region. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are all source, transit and destination countries for trafficked children. While trafficking is prohibited in these countries, there is a general lack of (technical) capacity and limited budget to effectively deal with the perpetrators.



Child trafficking is a high-profit endeavour for the traffickers. Children are primarily trafficked for the purpose of child labour (mainly domestic, farm labour and increasingly in artisanal mining and oil fields), street begging and sexual exploitation. Poverty, family breakdowns and weak child protection systems contribute to child trafficking; as well as the high number of East African children who have dropped out of school.


Trafficked children suffer extreme violations of their human rights. They are exposed to many dangers, including crime, violence and (sexual) abuse. Parents or guardians often have good intentions when they entrust traffickers with their children. They hope for an education, a job, or a better life in another city or country. In reality their children end up being exploited, often in hazardous conditions or in illegality.
Children who are intercepted and reunified with their families after being trafficked, often experience difficulties once they return home. Their health is often affected permanently, they are traumatised or depressed and they find it very hard to function normally within their family and community.


We pay special attention to ‘unsafe migration’ - since children might be on the move voluntarily, yet face many dangers during their journey, including the risk of becoming victims of child trafficking, especially when they are migrating on their own.

To address child trafficking and unsafe migration in East Africa, we focus on the following target groups:

  • Children who are victims of child trafficking, and vulnerable children who are at high risk of being trafficked
  • Families and communities
  • Civil society
  • The private sector (e.g. the transport sector)
  • Local and national authorities

Our main objectives are:

  • 5,000 vulnerable children attend school
  • 4,200 children have been rescued from child trafficking
  • 800 children have been assisted with legal aid
  • 18,000 children are aware about child trafficking and unsafe migration

What we do

Our programme addressing child trafficking and unsafe migration concentrates on all actors and stakeholders. Our geographical focus is on Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

We implement our programme by:

  • Making children resilient against child trafficking, by explaining to them that these practices are illegal and what the negative consequences are. We do the same with their parents / guardians and the communities in which they live.
  • Intercepting children who are being trafficked or on the move, for example by being present at major transit points (such as bus stations). We also train government officials and community workers in how to identify victims of child trafficking. Rescued children are reunified with their families as much as possible. These victims get counselling to help them deal with their often traumatic experiences.
  • Partnering  with local civil society organisations as well as with the private sector, so that they can play their part in the fight against child trafficking. For example, transport businesses such as bus companies may ask their drivers and conductors to pay attention to children travelling alone.
  • Cooperating with local and national authorities in improving and implementing their child protection policies, as well as in identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice. Since child trafficking crosses borders, it is important that our programme is functioning well at the regional level. We encourage governments to work together at border crossings.


Some of the results of our work against child trafficking and unsafe migration in East Africa from January to Juny 2017:

  • 642 children intercepted and protected during their unsafe migration (452 girls, 190 boys)
  • Support for 1.373 victims and vulnerable children to go (back) to school
  • 390 households received training in alternative income generating activities, to prevent children from migrating on their own to look for work
  • 35.865 children 20.447 community members reached with education about the risks of unsafe migration and the importance of education
  • Support for 44 local child protection commitees consisting of 529 members
  • 50 local police and judicial staff trained in child friendly interview techniques and children's rights training for 52 civil servants