It was a hot day and the humidity was unbearable. There were over 200 people in line just to see us. We were a group of medical workers from the United States, there to assess children under the age of five for malaria and provide treatment. We treated them as quickly as we could, first obtaining their information, then blood pressure, pulse and weight. This was then followed by a physical exam, a quick scan and treatment if needed. Each child received no more than ten minutes of attention and it was probably the most medical attention they had received in their entire life.
We were in a small village of Ghana, Africa. It was surreal. It was my lifelong dream to go to Africa. The people were amazing. They had nothing and they would give you everything. Everywhere we were greeted by a warm smile, a laugh and a hand shake. Within days of our arrival their dirty shabby homes became mine and my desire to help them grew. I have never felt so important and so helpless in my life. I made more in a day at my nursing job back home than most of these people would see in a life time.
Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa, next to the Côte d’Ivoire. Together they export almost 70% of the world’s cocoa. Together they are the largest known section of forced child slavery harvesting the world’s largest supply of cocoa. This cocoa is then sold at a price set by the government to large chocolate manufacturers in the area and then shipped worldwide for various uses. The prices set by the government are so low that farmers use child labor to save money. For the children, with living conditions described above, finding options instead of slavery is not easy and in developing nations of Africa, there are not many options.
I did not know about chocolate slavery when I first visited Africa. I do remember the living conditions I saw. I know that what I saw is not the future that I would want for my child, or any child. Several have and are attempting to fix this problem. The Harkin Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by several chocolate companies in the United States as a voluntary pledge to eradicate slavery by 2005 along with other measures. They failed, again in 2008 and again in 2010. There are several organizations asking for slavery to stop, trying to help those at risk and trying to provide opportunities for those that are saved. There are also organizations that certify chocolate as fair trade, meaning it was not harvested with the use of child labor. These organizations ensure that it is sold at a fair price and worker’s rights are addressed.
I hope that I did not just ruin your next Easter. I hope that we will all recognize the big world around us and that we need to take care of each other if we are going to succeed. I hope that we remember that our lives are all intertwined somehow, from my home to yours.
Gina (a.k.a. Chocolate Mom) blogs about lifestyle and sweets and mychocolatepeaces.com. She works as a nurse informaticist, enjoys outdoor activities, photography and spending time with the family.