Child Trafficking and Natural Disasters

Inside the world of child trafficking over a million girls and boys are bought, sold, or kidnapped for cheap labor or sexual exploitation. According to UNICEF, trafficking of children is a global problem with as many as 1.2 million children trafficked each year.

Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking and its prevalence. They are often tricked into believing that the child will have the possibility of a better life abroad. Yet, since the devastation in Burma a new form of trafficking has found its way in a devastated region. Two suspects have already been arrested for attempting to take children who survived the catastrophic cyclone. "A broker came to a shelter and tried to recruit children," said UNICEF's chief child protection officer in Burma, Anne-Claire Dufay. “There was an intervention. The police intervened and made arrests."

Ms. Dufay has explained that children who had been separated from their parents, and possibly orphaned are now facing the threat of violence on top of daily struggles for life’s essential necessities like food and water.

"There are concerns for children in camps," she said, adding that sleeping spaces and toilets should be well lit and safe for women and youngsters, to reduce the risk of harm in camps that can become crowded and tense.

Katy Barnett, Save the Children's child protection adviser in Rangoon, said the organization was aware of the report of the arrests and expected more trafficking problems as the crisis develops in natural disasters. "It's something which agencies have been expecting. It's an absolute standard thing in the fallout of an emergency like this," she said.

"Traffickers can easily get hold of unaccompanied or separated children and tell them they'll lead a better life or be safe."

Barnett said another unconfirmed report of people looking in camps to recruit girls to work as domestic workers - a typical ruse for traffickers - was being investigated by a church organisation today.

"They are asking families if they would give their girls up and they haven't been stopped yet apparently," she said.

Burma made human trafficking illegal in 2005. Yet, the U.S. State Department has listed the isolated nation as one of the world's worst offenders for human trafficking along with North Korea and Laos.

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