As a result of Haiti’s recent earthquake, there are many obvious threats survivors must face in the aftermath, such as malnutrition, dehydration, lack of shelter, and rampant disease.But there is another enemy less obvious to the naked eye far that’s far more sinister than these afflictions – human trafficking. In the wake of natural disasters, the breakdown of rule of law, extreme poverty, and increased vulnerability all contribute to a surge in human trafficking, especially targeted towards young children who are the most vulnerable of the population.
Haiti is no exception. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN in an interview that child trafficking is one of the country’s most significant problems, even without the added stresses caused by the earthquake. It is estimated that every year a quarter million children are reported trafficked within the country.
Now, as the country struggles to rebuild, children face an even greater risk of being sold for sex, slave labor, or their organs. Prime Minister Bellerive says many culprits pose as organizations falsely claiming to want to save children from the streets and send them to the United States. He is working to register displaced children in Haiti so that the government can account for the children and return them to their relatives if they have any or place them with new families. Trafficking dangers are another reason why Haiti is
thoroughly verifying adoption papers before orphans leave the country.
The Salvation Army has been named the lead agency of some 20,000 homeless Haitians living in make-shift shelters and tents near our main compound in Port-au-Prince. As a part of serving as lead agency, we are registering individuals and families settled in this area, in part, to help battle the exploitation of children and vulnerable individuals. The Salvation Army is also rapidly dispensing food, water, supplies, and medical treatment; re-opening schools closed by the earthquake; and offering church-related activities and services in a safe setting in efforts to rebuild and secure the devastated communities.
For more information on how The Salvation Army is working specifically to eradicate human trafficking, visit our national website at www.salvationarmyusa.org/trafficking y