Togo, on Africa’s west coast, remains one of the poorest nations in Africa. Togo was granted independence in 1960 after decades of colonisation, first by Germany and then, following World War I, by Britain and France. Shortly after, Gnassingbé Eyadéma seized power in a bloodless coup and ruled for almost 40 years.
Throughout that time, Togo has struggled with issues of poverty. Poor sanitation facilities and a general inaccessibility to safe drinking water, along with a lack of access to good medical care, particularly in rural areas, have cost many lives and held back the nation’s development. In fact, Togo has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, and, according to UNICEF, more than half of the population still lives below the poverty line.
This has a significant impact on children. Without other options, many are forced into prostitution or child labour: 35.7 per cent of children aged five to 14 are involved in child labour, which can interfere with schooling and expose children to dangerous situations.
Forced child labour occurs in the agricultural sector—particularly on coffee, cocoa, and cotton farms—as well as in stone and sand quarries. Children from rural areas are brought to the capital, Lomé, and forced to work as domestic servants, roadside vendors and porters, or exploited in prostitution.
Through much of 2018, the nation was caught up in a protracted political disagreement between President Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma and opposition parties, who demanded he place limits on how many terms a president can serve—and step down. President Eyadéma was elected in 2005 following the death of his father, former President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, and each of his subsequent electoral victories (in 2010 and 2015) has been met with opposition protest and claims of vote-rigging; yet the elections have been declared free and fair by independent observers.