In Crisis Zones and Beyond, Trafficking is Ever Present

Recently, two news articles highlighted the risk children face of becoming victims to the global criminal juggernaut of human trafficking. One article, in the Huffington Post, shone a light on one of the unforeseen repercussions of natural disasters, the other, by Reuters, reported on the rescue of 48 child slaves in the West African nation of the Ivory Coast.

Taken together, the articles reveal the insidiousness of modern day slavery.

For children in the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as those trying to survive after the Nepal earthquakes earlier this year, the risk is great. Traffickers, seeking to take advantage of economically vulnerable families, convince parents to give up their children for the promise of a rich future, full of educational and professional opportunities. Such promises are alluring for families who have seen an unforeseen event render their futures bleak, and all too often they consent. Once in the hands of the trafficker, however, they find a life of abuse through sexual exploitation or forced labor.

Meanwhile this week, police in the Ivory Coast rescued 48 children, ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old, from traffickers operating in cocoa plantations. Reports indicate the children had been grossly mistreated, suffering physical and psychological abuse as they were forced to work in fields. Many were taken from neighboring nations, smuggled by traffickers and sold to plantation owners.

Modern day slavery takes many forms, exploiting men, women, and children in a variety of locales. And the ways in which they become victims are equally as varied; so must be our response. We learned, following the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010, that humanitarian aid needs to include anti-trafficking training to identify survivors at risk in the aftermath of natural disasters. More broadly, business leaders have begun to take initiative, investigating their supply chains for labor abuse and monitoring financial transactions to identify traffickers.

Such initiatives should become the standard through every sector and field. In law enforcement, business, and victim-services, modern slavery can effectively be bankrupted, from Nepal to Ivory Coast and beyond, ensuring the most vulnerable among us do not face lives of exploitation and abuse.

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Published on June 29, 2015

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