Sound of Freedom
On July 23, 2023, The Hill reported that “Sound of Freedom” — a film aiming to raise awareness about the global issue of child trafficking — surpassed $100 million in gross revenue at the domestic box office. While the film brought this issue to mainstream audiences, some have criticized it for portraying a sensationalized representation of child trafficking. Here are five facts about “Sound of Freedom” and child trafficking. 

5 Facts About “Sound of Freedom” and Child Trafficking

  1. “Sound of Freedom” is Based on a True StoryThe film is based on the life of Tim Ballard, a former agent for the Department of Homeland Security who worked undercover in the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. In 2013, Ballard and other former agents left the Department to create an organization — Operation Underground Railroad — that more heavily focused on saving children from child trafficking.
  2. Victims of Child Trafficking Are Often the Victims of People they Know — According to Save the Children, there is a common misconception that strangers traffick victims. Oftentimes, however, this is not the case as children’s friends or family members may traffick them.
  3. Those Living in Poverty Are Most Vulnerable to Child Trafficking — Many have said that poverty is child trafficking. Families living in poverty are oftentimes vulnerable as they lack access to basic necessities such as job opportunities, adequate education and housing. Desperate to make ends meet, these families may be more likely to fall prey to child traffickers who claim they can help them.
  4. The Most Common Form of Child Trafficking is Labor Trafficking — Many children who are trafficking victims end up in child labor. Africa and Asia have very high amounts of child labor with an estimated 72 million and 62 million children entering child labor in each region, respectively.
  5. Child Trafficking Occurs in the United States as Well — While child trafficking is most prevalent in underdeveloped or developing countries and regions, they are not the only countries where child trafficking takes place. In 2021, there were reports of a total of 17,200 child trafficking cases, with the greatest number of cases occurring in Nevada, Mississippi and Florida.

Ongoing Efforts

While “Sound of Freedom” has brought attention to Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), it is not the only organization whose mission is to fight back against child trafficking. Other nonprofit organizations have the same goal. For example, World’s Children is an organization dedicated to creating “a world in which every child has a safe, nurturing place to call home, and a chance to achieve their potential through education.” 

World’s Children currently has an initiative called the Prevention of Child Trafficking Program (PCT) that aims to educate vulnerable populations about how to identify and stop child traffickers as well as working directly with government officials and local authorities to put an end to child trafficking. 

Thus far, PCT has made quite an impact on the communities it’s aimed to help with a total of 130,985 adults and children having been taught about child trafficking prevention, 153 victims being saved from child trafficking and 75 child marriages being terminated. Hopefully, ongoing efforts such as PCT will help put an end to child trafficking globally. 

– Nicole Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Trafficked Victims in Nepal
The organization Shakti Samuha believes that trafficked victims in Nepal are valuable members of society. It asserts that these victims deserve rights like everyone else. Moreover, it believes that victims should lead the fight against trafficking. Founded by 15 girls that the Indian government released in 1996, Shakti Samuha focuses on prevention, security and empowerment for survivors.

Shakti Samuha: Victims as Advocates

Shakti Samuha promotes enhancing advocacy efforts to improve and influence anti-trafficking legislation. Further, it strives to empower victims to seek cases against traffickers. Simultaneously, Shakti Samuha works to reintegrate victims into the economy. The organization runs an income-generation support program. It also provides psychosocial and legal counseling. Finally, Shakti Samuha helps provide survivors with housing. The organization has five shelters and provides education support to 1,514 children. In total, since 2009 Shakti Samuha has repatriated 145 human trafficked women and children from India.

Since 2005, about 18,261 people have actively participated in the awareness-raising, interaction and advocacy activities in Kathamndu valley and five trafficking-prone districts. Shakti Samuha won the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is considered Asia’s Nobel prize.

Sunita Danuwar: Leading the Way

In 2018, the United States Department of State awarded its Trafficking In Person (TIP) Award to Sunita Danuwar. Danuwar is the co-founder and executive director of the Shakti Samuha. A survivor of trafficking herself, Danuwar personally travels to poor Nepali villages to raise awareness. From 2009 to 2011 she ran the Alliance Against Trafficking of Women and Children in Nepal, which is a group of non-government organizations working collectively to support trafficked victims in Nepal.

Nepalese Trafficking and Child Labor

“The main forms of trafficking are sexual exploitation, forced labor and removal of organs,” says Binija Dhital Goperma,  the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Programme Coordinator in Nepal. She adds that cases of human trafficking occur in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. She also mentions garment industries and agricultural, domestic and brick kiln workplaces. However, striving to combat trafficking, Nepal ratified the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons in 2018. The Protocol legally binds countries to criminalize trafficking by introducing national anti-trafficking laws. Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, the government needed to reduce access to resources for trafficking survivors.

A weak economy with high unemployment sets the stage for a high rate of trafficking. In 2019, Nepal had an 11.4 % unemployment rate. It then follows that trafficked Nepalese are a key source of forced labor.  Laborers in Nepal may be working back-breaking construction jobs in the desert in scorching heat for 12 hours a day. Factories force some to work grueling hours seven days a week. Domestic workers become  “virtual slaves” in private homes.

Trafficking in Asia and the Pacific

Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal activity in the world, raising $32 billion. The International Labor Office (2017) reports that a majority (approximately 62%) of persons trafficked are victimized in Asia and the Pacific. The 2020 International Labor Organization (ILO) data shows that in 2020 Asia and the Pacific child labor included 48.7 million children. Moreover, of those children, 22.2 million worked in hazardous jobs.

Other Ways Human Trafficking Victims are Receiving Help in Nepal

Many coalitions throughout the world are striving to eliminate child labor and trafficking in Nepal, Asia, the Pacific and throughout the world. Organizations including the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations focus on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 to end child labor and all its forms by 2025. They work with nations, including Nepal, to create laws and policies to accomplish this. They also create programs to work directly with trafficked victims.

A Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labor (Bridge Project) is an initiative launched by the International Labor Organization and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor that assists the migrant worker communities of Bajura and Kanchanpur by providing livelihood support. Specifically, the Bridge Project develops programming to help trafficked victims gain the skills necessary to avoid exploitative environments. For example, people in the program learn how to nurse diseased goats back to health and then how to become goat farmers.

Programs like Shakti Samuha and the Bridge Project remain focused on empowering trafficked victims in Nepal to sustain themselves. With that focus, they should eventually prevent poverty from being a mitigating factor in trafficking in the first place.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Flickr

child trafficking in Haiti
Child trafficking in Haiti is prevalent. As of 2021, the U.S. Department of State ranks Haiti as a Tier 2 Watch List country in terms of the minimum standards to eradicate human trafficking as laid out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Haitian government has struggled to combat the exploitation of children in domestic servitude, also known as restavek. However, several organizations are advocating and taking action to prevent child trafficking.

The Haitian-Dominican Border

The Haitian-Dominican border has a high prevalence of child trafficking. Within Haiti, about 60% of people lived in conditions of poverty in 2020, according to the World Bank. Because of Haiti’s high poverty rate along with high unemployment rates, parents resort to sending their children across the Haitian-Dominican border in an attempt for them to secure a chance at a better life.

Parents entrust their children to strangers to get them across the border safely. However, these strangers exploit the children’s vulnerabilities and traffick them.

In August 2020, officials arrested a man on suspicion of trafficking five children across the Haitian-Dominican border. Likewise, a few years prior, in September 2017, Haiti officials rescued a 15-year-old girl named Prospélanda from being trafficked across the Haitian-Dominican border by a woman luring her with the promise of work and a better life.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Haitian-Dominican border has always been a hotspot for the exploitation of children. However, trafficking rings are now using the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage. Haiti already ranks as the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing conditions of poverty even further. With rising poverty comes rising vulnerabilities for people enduring dire economic circumstances.

In particular, traffickers target children because of their vulnerabilities, often promising them a better life in the Dominican Republic. In the hopes of a better life, according to InSight Crime, about 50,000 children cross the Haitian-Dominican border annually with a high likelihood of finding themselves in a child trafficking ring.

Anti-Trafficking Laws in Haiti

In 2014, the government implemented the Anti-Trafficking Law (TIP), which criminalizes human trafficking. A trafficker can serve a sentence of between seven to 15 years in prison and pay a fine up to an equivalent of almost $21,000. For child trafficking cases, punishment can include life imprisonment.

Although the U.S. Department of State has ranked Haiti as s Tier 2 Watch List nation, meaning it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” the Haitian government is making efforts to combat child trafficking in Haiti.

In 2020, the Haitian government began investigating three trafficking cases in hopes of prosecuting traffickers, a significant decrease from nine cases in 2018 as well as 2019. However, “[t]here were 21 total human trafficking cases pending in Haitian courts at the end of the reporting period” for the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Advocating Against Child Trafficking

Many organizations advocate against child trafficking in Haiti. Restavek Freedom is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 to fight against child trafficking.

The organization’s strategy is to fight for restavek children and raise awareness of child trafficking in Haiti. Restavek Freedom also educates Haitian families on the dangers of child trafficking and teaches them how to protect their children.

Lovely lived as a restavek for years. Her host family made her work hard with no pay. Her host family also did not allow her to go to school, but with Restavek Freedom’s help, Lovely is now free from that situation. Now, Lovely is reunited with her family and goes to school. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up so she can help others as Restavek Freedom helped her.

Although child trafficking in Haiti is prevalent, organizations like Restavek Freedom are working to reduce child trafficking. Children like Prospélanda and Lovely can avoid the horrors of child trafficking through the commitment of authorities and organizations.

– Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Cambodia
Human trafficking in Cambodia is consistently on the rise. Therefore, the U.S. State Department has classified the nation as a Tier 2 Watch List country for the third year in a row due to its limited efforts to combat trafficking. This ranking means that “the Government of Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” All of Cambodia’s 25 provinces are sources of human trafficking and exploitation of women, men and children. According to World Vision, “Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked into sexual exploitation and forced labor.” In 2001, the coalition of 16 organizations, Cambodia against Child Trafficking (Cambodia ACTs), came into existence. Cambodia ACTs serves 22 provinces and municipalities to ensure all Cambodian children live a life free from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

A Closer Look at Human Trafficking in Cambodia

The Global Slavery Index, a study of the prevalence of modern slavery, ranked Cambodia third out of 167 countries in 2016 in terms of the prevalence of modern slavery in the nation. This is a very poor ranking as the estimated number of people facing modern slavery in Cambodia in 2016 stood at 256,800, which equates to 1.65% of the population.

Why is this? According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, most human trafficking incidents in Cambodia materialize as forced marriages, trafficking for marriages, forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation forced begging and orphanage tourism. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated human trafficking in Cambodia due to the increasing vulnerability of populations as a consequence of rising poverty levels and widespread unemployment.

According to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey for 2019/20, at the newly defined national poverty line of $2.70 per person per day, 18% of the population faces poverty. Without enough money to provide for themselves and their families, Cambodians are at increased risk of trafficking lures and often look to child labor to make ends meet. Sometimes families unknowingly send their children to work in environments that are exploitative and unsafe to make extra money. In the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2018, the U.S. State Department deemed Cambodia one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of human trafficking.

How Cambodia ACTs Helps

Cambodia ACTs offer survivors a safe place to share their stories anonymously as it believes silence only aids in the problem of human trafficking. This is why Cambodia ACTs works tirelessly to raise awareness of human trafficking and educate and aid children who are at risk, all while strengthening Cambodian laws to stop human trafficking.

Cambodia ACTs uses a 4P strategy to combat the trafficking of children: prevention, prosecution, provision and promotion. Cambodia ACTs prevent trafficking through education, awareness-raising activities and workshops in the community. The coalition aids in the prosecution of perpetrators and seeks justice for victims. As for provision, Cambodia ACTs provides for survivors by offering essential care, social services and psychological assistance. Lastly, its promotion activities involve working with government agencies to enact policy change.

How to Aid Survivors

The work of Cambodia ACTs has continued to expand since its start in 2001. However, this is only possible due to the generosity of people who wish to see human trafficking come to an end. Through donations and grants, Cambodia ACTs can continue to fight human trafficking. In 2015, using its prevention strategy, Cambodia ACTs gave “awareness training” to 25,000 Cambodian adults and children. In addition to this, Cambodia ACTs created “6,000 posters, 5,000 leaflets, 4,000 stickers and [four] billboards” to help end human trafficking in Cambodia. To help Cambodia ACTs continue its great mission, even ordinary individuals can play a role by donating or using social media to raise awareness.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has increased the vulnerability of people to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the UNODC, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.


CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from five to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forward

There are still critical issues to resolve regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Mali
Mali is a country where human trafficking is widespread, according to the U.S. State Department. This suggests that the government of the western African country is failing to achieve the bare minimum for abolishing the practice. Instead, Mali has increased some of its prevention efforts — at least since 2017. Mali is not overlooking trafficking, according to many observers. In fact, the government is attempting to stop human trafficking in Mali.

The Situation in Mali

Despite its ranking, the Malian government is making strides to remedy its human trafficking conundrum. These initiatives include educating judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers on human trafficking, as well as issuing a directive prohibiting minors from entering military installations.

Further actions aimed at combating human trafficking include government collaboration with international groups such as the Fodé and Yeguine Network for Action, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Families. In addition, the government has concentrated efforts amending an old anti-trafficking law as recently as 2019.

Mali’s justice minister has issued an order requiring judicial officials to give priority to cases brought under the original statute. Due to the absence of an integrated process to gather anti-trafficking statistics, law enforcement material previously was fragmentary and thereby challenging to access. The 2019 amendment sought to establish a unified strategy for data collection.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 42% of its total population living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t help, as a recession dropped Mali’s gross domestic product by nearly 2%. Additionally, nearly seven in 10 adults in Mali cannot read or write, indicating a scarcity of education.

The Correlation Between Malian Poverty and Human Trafficking

Mali has been beset by instability and violence since a 2012 military coup d’état and the capture of the northern territory. The country remains in a state of desperation due to its economic and social crises. The financial insecurity has made it simple — as many observers viewed — to fall victim to human trafficking practices.

Mali falls short of meeting the minimal benchmarks for the abolition of human trafficking. As a result, human traffickers can continue to exploit both internal and international victims. Many of these migrants are fleeing crisis zones in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mali is a supplier, route and destination country for international trafficking, according to the State Department. Lured to Mali with assurances of high-paying jobs, organizations, which include violent fundamentalists like Al-Qaeda “affiliates” abduct many of them. Job seekers also labor to “pay off” fictitious debts that the organizations that invited them to the country in the first place tell them they owe.

Why Mali?

Despite its poverty, Mali is rich in gold and oil. Yet, to benefit from those resources, Mali needs miners. This attracts refugees, women and children, who traffickers could ultimately coerce. Juvenile prostitution and child sex trafficking are common at mining sites. In fact, more than 12% of sex workers at these locations are as young as 15 and as old as 19, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

A disproportionate number of males work in certain mines, exposing them to the most heinous types of child labor, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. “Children are being forced to fight by armed groups, trafficked, raped, sold, forced into sexual or domestic servitude or married off,” Gillian Triggs, the Refugee Agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, told Reuters in December 2020.

Assistance to Mali

There are many human trafficking solutions, yet they are difficult to implement. Global attention and vigorous effort to alleviate Mali’s exploited and trafficked workers dilemma remain in initial phases. While the U.N., the State Department and a number of non-governmental organizations said they are aware of trafficking issues in Mali, the magnitude and precise volume of trafficking and coerced laborers continue to remain unclear.

To help with these issues, the Roman Catholic Church-affiliated Caritas Mali has assembled an international team to build an initiative alongside the International Catholic Migration Commission,  providing underprivileged individuals and children with alternative income and skill development opportunities.

Mali’s education system is deficient, and this new initiative may make fewer people desire to work in deplorable conditions. Many believe that human trafficking thrives on the instability that poverty creates. Thus, eliminating poverty could then, in turn, mitigate trafficking problems.

Many groups are attempting to assist those in poverty in Mali including Action Against Hunger. To date, it has helped more than 400,000 people gain access to nutrition and health programs, food security programs and sanitation programs. Another organization providing aid is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace, which collaborates with the U.N. World Food Program to deliver financial assistance and meals to families that dislocation, violence, environmental catastrophes and other crises have impacted.

Save the Children is another organization helping nearly 1.5 million Malian children in 2020 by giving food and protection. The organization says it effectively raised 232,000 children out of poverty.

The work of Save the Children, Action Against Hunger and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace are helping reduce the symptoms of poverty such as food insecurity and poor sanitation. These efforts should subsequently reduce people’s vulnerability and eliminate human trafficking in Mali.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Maiti Nepal
Nepal, landlocked between the global superpowers of China and India, is one of the most impoverished countries in South Asia, due in part to poor infrastructure, corruption and natural disasters. Staggering poverty rates and unemployment have created a crisis at the India-Nepal border, a hotspot for human trafficking. Women and girls are especially at risk of sex trafficking, especially girls in rural communities far from the capital city of Kathmandu. Maiti Nepal aims to address the growing issue of human trafficking in Nepal.

Women and Girls at Risk

Women and girls make up about “71% of modern slavery victims” worldwide. Illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and geography all contribute to the human trafficking crisis. Faced with few prospects, many girls are lured into the hands of traffickers with the promise of work and prosperity abroad.

Traffickers transport these girls to urban centers, either to Kathmandu or various cities in India. These girls must work in brothels, massage parlors, dance clubs, circuses and private homes. If the girls are lucky enough to make it back home, they then face additional discrimination and struggle to reintegrate into society.

COVID-19 Worsens the Trafficking Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the risks of human trafficking for girls. As unemployment rises, desperate families are more likely to believe traffickers can provide a better life for their children. In a society that views girls’ education as less important than boys’, extended school closures leave girls at heightened risk of falling victim to trafficking. It is imperative that global actors and the government of Nepal take immediate action to protect girls and women during the pandemic.

Neither India nor Nepal requires documentation for citizens to cross their shared border, allowing traffickers to move people across without detection. Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis has further depleted the resources and ability of anti-trafficking officials to adequately monitor border crossings. Estimates indicate that traffickers move 54 women and girls into India every day.

Maiti Nepal Spearheads Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Anuradha Koirala founded Maiti Nepal in 1993 with the goal of addressing the trafficking of women and children. Named a CNN Hero in 2010, Koirala has devoted the majority of her life to rehabilitating survivors of trafficking and implementing prevention efforts. Maiti Nepal recognizes that without improving conditions in Nepal, trafficking will continue to persist.

Though the Nepali government attempts to monitor the border, women and girls continue to slip through the cracks. Maiti Nepal supplements the government’s efforts to guard the busy border between India and Nepal. Volunteers directly intercept traffickers at the border and safely return the victims to their homes or a transit center. To date, Maiti Nepal has intercepted more than 42,000 girls at the border and convicted 1,620 human traffickers.

Maiti Nepal began as one rehabilitation home to house survivors. Now, its programs include prosecution and legal counseling, transit homes, education sponsorships, job training, advocacy efforts, rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS treatment programs, among others. Maiti has provided rehabilitation services to about 25,000 women and children. The nonprofit spearheads multiple efforts to provide direct aid as well as prevention and advocacy efforts throughout the country.

Looking Ahead

The continued efforts of Maiti Nepal and the Nepali government safeguard impoverished girls and women from the lures of human trafficking. Understanding the links between poverty and human trafficking, a broader focus on poverty reduction can accelerate efforts to combat human trafficking in Nepal.

– Elizabeth Long
Photo: Unsplash

International adoption
As the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs stated, “Intercountry adoption is the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.” International adoption has been an apparent phenomenon between countries since World War I and World War II. This type of adoption developed as an aftereffect of war and migration that made orphaned children more visible to U.S. citizens. The subject of international adoption contains insights arising from scenarios of rooted controversy.

5 Facts About International Adoption

  1. Intercountry adoption can grant foreign children the chance to escape poverty. It aids small groups of children worldwide to reduce child poverty nationally. Intercountry adoption is a micro-solution for world poverty that primarily affects the adopted child and their community. It is a requirement that countries’ policies and independent agencies respect children’s best interests in regard to adoption.
  2. International adoption lacks general oversight for children across countries. It exclusively takes place between independent agencies across countries. All agencies have different standards to execute the process of international adoption. Agencies have limited restrictions and additionally do not require accreditation. The lack of efficient governing for this type of adoption opens possibilities including child abuse, homelessness and continued unethical behavior involving a child with adoptive parents.
  3. Rehoming internationally adopted children is a process that is becoming a commonality surging through the U.S. for unwanted children. It leads children open to becoming once again impoverished or without a parent if there are no other means of adoption. It also puts the child at a disadvantage of being in a foreign country with less familiarity with the culture.
  4. Some international adoption practices receive classifications as child trafficking. This is because of the exchange of a child from an impoverished country to a rich country. For instance, there are records of children being adopted abroad and stolen from their birth parents. However, often the parents who fall victim to this crime do not have the money nor means to launch an investigation. Practices of this variety vary based on the validity and policies of specific adoption agencies.
  5. International adoption has declined by over 72% since 2005. Some key reasons are the misrepresentation of impoverished children, child abuse and humiliation. Nearly half of international adoptions happen for parents in the United States. Multiple claims of child abuse and exploitation of impoverished children occur within the United States. As a result, countries have improved ways to execute the process of international adoption. Cost is a significant restriction affecting international adoptions, which reaches at least $20,000 for a child.

What People Know Today

The process of international adoption is currently undergoing a reform that lowers the overall rate of abuse toward those children. More exploitative cases of intercountry adoptions happen where impoverished, kidnapped and orphaned children in their own countries are advertised solely for monetary gain. While the demand for intercountry children is still high, the supply still exists but is significantly more controlled than before 2005.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Guinea
Guinea is a country located on Africa’s west coast. While it is small, Guinea has some of the largest deposits of iron in the world and has a valuable amount of agricultural and natural resources. However, the country continues to have high poverty rates, with 43.7% of Guineans living below the poverty line in 2018. This situation is primarily due to political unrest and a lack of investment in the country’s infrastructure. Child poverty in Guinea also became exacerbated by poor healthcare and a lack of protection against labor and trafficking.

Health in Guinea

Health in Guinea has been a constant issue that contributes to poverty. The average life expectancy for men is 53 and the average life expectancy for women is 56. Moreover, the infant and maternal mortality rates are high because there is a lack of medical resources in Guinea. Numerous children die from curable and preventable diseases, such as yellow fever, polio, measles and malaria.

Furthermore, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 shed light on other healthcare issues in Guinea. Guinea was one of the Ebola epicenters and, unfortunately, there were not enough doctors, nurses, beds or equipment to aid those in need. With every available resource needed to fight the outbreak, treatments for preventable medical conditions were often not available. Additionally, child malnutrition rose because of the Ebola epidemic, as food prices went up and many families could not afford to eat. Roughly 320,000 children under the age of 5 need medical treatment for malnutrition.

Child Labor and Trafficking

It is estimated that there are about 5.6 million children under the age of 18 in Guinea. Roughly 670,000 of them are growing up without their parents. Many of these children have lost their parents because of AIDS. The significant number of orphans has forced children to work, which is a violation of human rights. There is a lack of oversight for mining activities, so children often end up working in the dangerous conditions of the mines. The harmful substances in mines are dangerous and unsuitable for adults, let alone children. Additionally, children who work in the mines generally drop out of school because they are not able to work and receive an education at the same time.

Child poverty in Guinea has also resulted in child trafficking and sex trafficking. However, there is a concerning lack of data on this topic. Child trafficking remains a big concern in Guinea. In court cases, many of the alleged perpetrators go unpunished. Furthermore, the victims of trafficking are not given the support they need to reintegrate into society.

SOS Children’s Villages

To improve the lives of children in Guinea, it is imperative that support, healthcare and education are provided at an early age. SOS Children’s Villages is an organization that supports children who do not have parental care. With the help of donors, governments, communities and other organizations, it assists impoverished communities and disadvantaged children. SOS Children’s Village’s strategy is solely geared toward sustainable development goals in areas such as child protection, poverty, education, health, inequality and proper work hours. The organization works with locals to aid families that are vulnerable to poverty, so young children can grow up with their families

Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Sierra LeoneAs the COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of protecting vulnerable people from human trafficking, the need for a global solution has never been greater. Preliminary research shows that Sierra Leone acts mainly as a country of origin from which traffickers move individuals; this refers to victims trafficked within the country and abroad. Traffickers traffick both adults and children from Sierra Leone for a range of different purposes, including prostitution, labor, service as child soldiers and adoption. The government of Sierra Leone does not fully meet the minimum criteria for the prevention of human trafficking, but it demonstrates increasing efforts to do so.

Trafficking as an “Emerging” Issue in Sierra Leone

Civil society groups regularly comment that trafficking is “an emerging issue” that has existed in Sierra Leone for a long time, but now has a fresh identity as a form of exploitation. Traffickers move a large proportion of Sierra Leoneans internally from mostly rural areas to cities and towns. This form of trafficking impacts a significant amount of children who experience exploitation for sexual or labor purposes.

However, the population generally did not have access to knowledge about internal trafficking. Many people understood this term only in a very limited sense involving the abduction of children for adoption abroad. Overall, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what did and did not constitute trafficking. As an emerging issue, there is an urgent need to clarify the subject among civil society, the government and the population. This will require comprehensive awareness-raising and sensitization activities, as well as technical training. Addressing trafficking problems efficiently can help people make wise decisions about counter-trafficking interventions. Child protection agencies across the globe will therefore benefit from the successes and lessons learned from counter-trafficking efforts.

Sierra Leone as a Source Country

Information collected from various destination countries reveals that traffickers have trafficked Sierra Leoneans abroad for different forms of exploitation. Much trafficking to the E.U. appears to be for prostitution, as data shows that all assisted trafficked persons in the Netherlands were working in the sex industry. In the Middle East, Lebanon underwent identification as a key destination for Sierra Leonean children. Traffickers generally recruited them with promises of education or well-paid jobs. However, in reality, these children worked as domestic workers and often experienced sexual exploitation from their employers. Available data suggests that traffickers trafficked children to West Africa for working in plantations in Guinea and on the Ivory Coast, begging, committing petty crimes and prostitution. The presence of Sierra Leonean unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in various destination countries is arguably a signal of trafficking risk.

It is important to be aware of the extent to which human trafficking is an issue and how trafficking cases occur. Baseline information that one can use to evaluate the further growth of the problem, as well as the effectiveness of the policies and programs in place to tackle trafficking must also emerge. More in-depth qualitative research is necessary to understand the nature of trafficking in the country, including the recruitment process, the routes and destinations, victim profiles and the forms of exploitation.

Government Action

The government has demonstrated substantial efforts to prevent human trafficking; therefore, Sierra Leone has received an upgrade to Tier 2. These efforts included the increase in investigations and prosecutions, the arrest of traffickers for the first time in 15 years, increased training for trafficking officials, the commitment of an NGO center to the development of victims’ shelters and the establishment of anti-trafficking task forces at the district level.

However, the government still did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Shelter and services, especially for male trafficking victims, remained inadequate. Law enforcement did not investigate past reports of corruption and complicity which impeded law enforcement efforts. Sierra Leoneans remained susceptible to traffickers as labor migrants. The government had to rely heavily on NGOs and private shelters, including UNICEF — a large advocate against child trafficking in Sierra Leone.

Recommendations to Stop Human Trafficking in Sierra Leone

The key to stopping and addressing human trafficking in Sierra Leone will be the implementation of anti-trafficking legislation. The police must learn about the recent trafficking law and its required elements, and the judiciary must receive training regarding how to enforce the law. Enforcement of policies and legislation on child protection needs to undergo urgent development. The porous nature of the borders of Sierra Leone requires attention in order to tackle trafficking and other forms of crime. Moreover, awareness-raising campaigns and income-generating programs must target rural areas that many trafficked children originate from. While human trafficking in Sierre Leone is a serious issue, the increased counter-trafficking efforts are a step in the right direction.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr