Human Trafficking in Comoros
Human trafficking is an issue that plagues most of the world, but in some nations, it is more prevalent than in others. The archipelago of Comoros – located off of Africa’s east coast in the Indian Ocean – is a Tier 2 Watch List country making its citizens some of the most at-risk for human trafficking.

Notable Numbers

The Human Trafficking Institute’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) ranks countries in three tiers – the third being the worst. Tier 2 means that the respective government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for combating trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. However, the designation “Watch List” means that the number of human trafficking victims in Comoros is increasing or there is no evidence of heightened efforts from the previous year.
Most Comorian children ages 3 to 7 – and some as old as 14 – often study at unofficial neighborhood schools directed by private instructors, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation as domestic servants or field hands. Without formal schools to educate, children are often left in the hands of the corrupt.
The estimated 3,000 to 4,000 unaccompanied children on the island of Mayotte are especially susceptible to domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Due to a corrupt government, inadequate border control and international criminal networks, there is a high risk for transnational and domestic human trafficking in Comoros.

The 2022 TIP Report found that during the reporting period, the Comorian government investigated four trafficking cases – three of which were for forced labor, and one involving both labor and sex trafficking.
To combat human trafficking in Comoros, the government partnered with local NGOs and international organizations to provide support for the eight victims identified in 2022. MAEECHA is an NGO located in Moroni, Comoros that works to protect minors in isolation and much more. Between 2014 and 2015, MAEECHA identified 514 minors in a situation of vulnerability – 220, or 43%, were in isolation. About 68% of these children were under 12 years old.

Diplomatic Relations

The U.S. established diplomatic relations with Comoros in 1977 and has maintained its presence in some capacity through a strong bilateral relationship with the U.S. ambassador in Madagascar. Additionally, the Peace Corps re-established itself in the island nation in 2015.
In 2022, Comoros upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List based on achievements, including investigating trafficking crimes for the first time since 2014 and initiating the country’s first trafficking prosecution. Though this may seem insignificant, a country as impoverished as Comoros taking these steps could mean major progress in the coming years.
That being said, when a country is Tier 3, they may no longer be subject to foreign aid from the United States, so Comoros receiving international support is conditional upon it remaining in Tier 1 or 2.

Progress for Comoros

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that local community engagement is a recent initiative from Comoros in the war against trafficking. With the support of UNODC through informational workshops, parliamentarians and Islamic leaders have been working to spread awareness of human trafficking. With this type of movement underway – and hopefully, more to come – there is optimism that progress will occur in ensuring the safety of Comorians, especially the youth.

The U.S. Department of State financed the previously mentioned workshops as a part of the UNODC Enhancing Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Person in Eastern Africa project. The main focus of the project is aligning different regions’ national legislation on TIP.

Although Comoros is making progress as a nation with regard to human trafficking, there is much more that needs to occur for all its citizens to have safety and everything they need.
– Stella Tirone
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Zambia
In 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) published The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, approximating that 24.9 million individuals are victims of human trafficking around the world. This prediction includes 20.1 million labor trafficking victims and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. Globally, the ILO estimates 99% of victims to be women and girls. The World Population Review states, “Child trafficking is very common in Africa…where approximately 100% of all human trafficking victims are children.”

Causes and Effects of Human Trafficking

As mentioned, human trafficking is mainly an issue in developing countries, rather than developed countries. This is mainly due to the various political, social and economic differences between the two groups. Included are various causes and effects of human trafficking, all of which inhibit a developing country’s ability to overcome human trafficking.


  • Poverty: Poverty offers a vulnerable position for families, thus becoming the target of traffickers. This factor is often due to the poor condition of a country’s economy and/or social inequality.
  • Unemployment: Traffickers often use the desperation of the unemployed to persuade them to leave their country. Traffickers use these unknowing individuals to manipulate them into forms of forced labor and sexual exploitation, as victims get threats with potential reports to an immigration officer.
  • Displacement: War, political instability and natural disasters force victims into vulnerable positions, thus allowing traffickers to easily prey on individuals and embed them into human trafficking.


  • Mental Trauma: Victims often face dehumanization and objectification, thus leaving them in a state of mental degradation. Victims often experience post-traumatic stress, anxiety, fear, guilt and shame. These mental conditions can lead to suicide and abuse, forever inhibiting the victim to become economically independent.
  • Physical Trauma: Many victims experience physical abuse in the trafficking process. Individuals often face rape, beating and subjecting to other abuses over an extended period of time. Sexual exploitation, a common form of human trafficking, also leads to the increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. These physical injuries can lead to an inability to work and death.
  • Ostracism: Victims of human trafficking often experience social isolation from friends and family due to personal feelings and cultural beliefs. In the case of Africa, loved ones often blame or shun victims of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking in Zambia

Despite the Government of Zambia’s inability to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, the U.S. State Department ranks Zambia on the Tier 2 Watch List, as it is making tremendous efforts to do so.

The most vulnerable population to human trafficking in Zambia is mainly women and children. A poor economy and low social status encourage traffickers to use women and young girls for sexual exploitation, while they often use young boys for forced labor in agriculture, textile production, mining and other profit-inducing businesses.

Due to the high rate of migration within Africa, traffickers are also prone to exploiting immigrants desperate to cross borders into another region. The U.S. State Department reports, “Traffickers exploit women and children from neighboring countries in forced labor and sex trafficking in Zambia, including transiting migrants whose intended destination is South Africa. In recent years, traffickers lure Rwandan women to Zambia with promises of refugee status, coerce them into registering as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) nationals seeking refugee status in Zambia, and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking and threaten them with physical abuse and reporting them to immigration officials for fraudulent refugee claims.”

Efforts to End Human Trafficking in Zambia

The U.S. State Department applauds the Zambian Government for its efforts to end the practice of human trafficking, as it states, “The government…[has] launched various awareness campaigns via billboards, radio shows, text alerts and pamphlets in rural and border areas to educate local communities on human trafficking.”

Additionally, on December 19, 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) partnered with the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) to validate the Anti-Human Trafficking Act No.11 of 2008. The review was associated with revamping the 2002 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol).

The Road Ahead

Reducing human trafficking in Zambia is a daunting task. Despite this, the Zambian government has made significant efforts to improve. By raising awareness and developing plans to advance socially and economically, the prevalence of human trafficking in Zambia can reduce.

– Sania Patel
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Croatia
In 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that almost 25 million cases of human trafficking existed across the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation, mostly among girls and women. Southeastern Europe, which includes countries such as Croatia, Albania and Bulgaria, has a high prevalence of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. In terms of human trafficking in Croatia, the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State ranks Croatia as a Tier 2 country, meaning “Croatia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report

The government of Croatia created the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) to oversee the conduct of police authorities at the country’s borders and ensure that human rights are upheld at all times. The IMM “may help potential victims self-identify to authorities and reduce future opportunities for traffickers to exploit migrants and asylum-seekers,” the TIP 2022 report said.

However, Croatia had inadequate screening processes in place for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. A few judges also required several testimonies from trafficking victims, leading to re-traumatization. Furthermore, the legal system charged some traffickers with less serious crimes.

Preventative Measures

The Croatian government has taken a series of steps to raise awareness of human trafficking and increase prevention measures.

  • Holding monthly virtual meetings to oversee the implementation of Croatia’s 2018-2021 national action plan (NAP) to combat trafficking.
  • Hosting awareness campaigns in high-risk areas and targeting at-risk groups.
  • Running an anti-trafficking hotline that received 678 phone calls, which led to six human trafficking investigations.
  • Croatia prompted labor inspectors to conduct inspections in several fields of work to ensure there are no legal infringements.
  • The law mandates that employers cannot charge recruitment fees to workers and implements fines in this regard.
  • Labor inspectors in Croatia are able to issue fines or impose criminal charges against employers who withhold salaries from workers.

The U.S. Department of State indicated that although efforts supporting the elimination of trafficking have increased, the government still falls short of meeting the minimum standards.

From the Perspective of Croatia’s Youth

The majority of the victims experiencing human trafficking in Croatia are women and children. Adolescents are susceptible to trafficking due to their vulnerabilities and lack of knowledge. A study led by Zora Raboteg-Šarić and others in 2007 utilized a survey to test the human trafficking knowledge of 950 students.

The results differed between different parts of the country. Students from larger towns had more knowledge of human trafficking than those from smaller towns. Slightly more than 50% of respondents believed that human trafficking in Croatia is not a major concern. Females and older students generally see human trafficking in Croatia as a more serious issue than males and younger students.

On the Right Track

Despite several setbacks in reducing human trafficking in Croatia, the Croatian government has made several efforts to improve. With commitments to raising awareness and supporting preventative efforts, the prevalence of human trafficking in Croatia can reduce.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Unsplash

The Correlation Between Drugs and Poverty
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about
284 million people globally undergo drug abuse between the ages of 15 to 64. The correlation between drugs and poverty takes a variety of different stances.

The Problem

Although drugs do not discriminate against anyone, in particular, they tend to favor the lower-income population the most. People in poverty sometimes use drugs to cope with their living situation. The stress of being in poverty often inspires a feeling of hopelessness that leaves the individual vulnerable to substance abuse.

The act of substance abuse can lead someone who is wealthier into poverty as well. For instance, drug addiction often inspires a lack of motivation. This can be especially harmful in the workforce where the desire to work hard and meet deadlines is crucial. If terminated from a job, it can be very difficult to find a new one. Considering that, most people will waste away the rest of their money in an act of despondency.

The Lack of Resources

Unfortunately, many people living in poverty lack the funds they need to access support for drug addiction. In fact, in Pakistan, 99.7% of the people seeking help for drug addiction, cannot afford it.  

One case shows a boy at the young age of 14 who was unable to seek the help he needed to get over his addiction. Due to the steep prices and lack of space, the boy was denied a spot at this rehabilitation center in Pakistan. Many know this South Asian country for its lack of drug support centers. The number of opium users bypasses the number of support groups, leading to an increase in the amount of poverty seen throughout the country. This further indicates the correlation between drugs and poverty.

The Solution

Many countries have already taken action to counteract these effects. For instance, several South Asian countries brought public awareness over drug abuse on World Drug Day. Communities joined together in activities that helped people recognize the importance of acknowledging drug abuse. Organizations from across the globe united as one to address the issues that follow drug addiction and are also working to ensure the services and medicine necessary to assist drug addicts end up in place.

The Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation (KKAWF), established in 2015, focuses to raise awareness about drug abuse in Pakistan. KKAWF served more than 5,000 people with the activities it developed in 2018, including sports events, workshops and campaigns that focused on raising awareness. The Foundation engages politically by urging the authorities to address “the challenges of drug trafficking and the spread of substance abuse.”

Several South Asian countries have attempted to monitor and confiscate drugs more often. However, drugs still continue to be sold illegally due to the large percentage of crime taking place throughout South Asian countries. To counter this problem of illegal drug trafficking, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) composed the Regional programme to aid the factors contributing to the selling and buying of drugs.

Looking Ahead

Although there is no direct correlation between drugs and poverty, it is evident that the two tie together. By recognizing the link between the two, elected officials can begin to take drastic action in fighting off this devastating loop.

Madison Stivala
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Being abundant in the controversial coca leaf, Peru is one of the world’s leading producers of cocaine. In coordination with international groups, the Peruvian government has set the stage to dismantle the Peruvian cocaine industry.

Understanding the Coca Plant and the Peruvian Cocaine Industry

Coca is relatively abundant among the three major cocaine-producing nations of the world: Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The indigenous peoples of the Andes have traditionally used the coca plant for centuries. In its raw form, the plant performs as a benign stimulant often compared with coffee, suppressing a user’s pain, appetite and exhaustion and treating altitude sickness. However, when synthesizing the coca plant, the result is a highly addictive stimulant known as cocaine. Today, millions of people throughout the Andean and Amazonian regions chew coca leaves and brew tea from them.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of cocaine. Most of the cocaine that Peru yields either undergoes distribution throughout Latin America or goes to Europe, the United States, Mexico and Asia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Peruvian cocaine industry reached peak coca cultivation at 88,200 hectares, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reported. In 2021, there was a documented decrease in production from the previous year at 84,400 hectares. The present quantities of production emphasize the need for better termination efforts and more stable alternative economic development strategies for the rural citizens of Peru.

Peru is an economically developing country. As a result of its stable economic growth and investments in health, education and infrastructure, Peru has reduced hunger and poverty rates in the last 10 years. Currently, a quarter (22%) of Peru’s population lives in poverty and experiences food insecurity, especially those residing within the country’s rural areas. In these impoverished rural areas, the Peruvian cocaine industry thrives as desperate citizens turn to drug selling as a means of income.

Carving a Path to Alternative Development

The Peruvian government is making serious efforts to eradicate cocaine from its borders and develop safer and more sustainable economic opportunities for rural residents. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has coordinated with Peru’s counternarcotics and law enforcement to enhance the Peruvian justice system.

Before the pandemic, the INL aided the Peruvian government in eliminating more than 25,000 hectares of coca and approximately 220 metric tons of cocaine from their markets. This was a major victory as they were able to rid the Valley of Apurímac, Ene and Manraro River (VRAEM) of coca. VRAEM is vital to the Peruvian cocaine industry, as the area produces two-thirds of all cocaine in Peru.

For more than 25 years, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been a key supporter and sponsor of alternative development in Peru. UNODC directly collaborated with more than 8,000 farming families that were once heavily dependent on coca plant farming. This was possible through the creation of forestry administration, indigenous ecosystem protection, livestock breeding and the development of legally sustainable economies in coffee, cacao and palm oil. In recent years, UNODC has implemented programs that bolstered residents’ social and economic situations in coca cultivating sectors via “farmer-led” small enterprises that contribute to the overall economy.


USAID has also played a crucial role in alternative development campaigns against the Peruvian cocaine industry. The agency backed the Peruvian National Counternarcotics Policy by arranging alternative strategies for the growing of coca plants and by building Peru’s capabilities to challenge drug cartels. Like with UNODC, USAID supports previous coca-reliant regions to develop legitimate sources of income via farming investments in coffee, cacao, bananas and lumber. In 2021, USAID uplifted more than 70,000 families to shift to legal and sustainable economies. In addition, the agency has coordinated with several companies in Peru’s private sector, local governments, communities and investors to integrate millions of dollars into the growing economies and the protection of the Peruvian Amazon.


PRISMA is a Peruvian organization centered on empowering Peru’s most exposed citizens and providing access to opportunities via alternative development efforts. The organization started in 1986 and began with the purpose of reducing food insecurity among the nation’s children. It collaborates will all levels of government, international aid organizations, universities, interested members of the private sector and mobilized communities. PRISMA mainly operates in Peru but has been active in Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay and Equatorial Guinea through its many years of service.

The Peruvian government continues making significant strides in transforming rural citizens’ livelihoods. The nation views the cocaine endemic as a national and international security issue. Peru and its collaborators continue to bolster the coca-reliant rural communities to transition into safer, legal and reliable economic development.

– Ricardo Silva
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Laos
Laos, or Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is one of the poorest countries in the region. However, its economy has significantly increased in the last 20 years. While it continues working to improve economically, Laos faces a large amount of corruption, ranking 128 out of 180 in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021. With the problem still being prevalent, the Lao people suffer the consequences of corrupt officials, creating a lack of confidence in the Lao government. Citizens also suffer from corrupt police officers, who often will detain, bribe and intimidate people. Thankfully, the Lao PDR works to combat corruption by improving the State Inspection Authority’s practice of investigations, doing United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Reviews and Lao officials having in-person training with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to investigate finances and firings of corrupt state officials and authorities.

How Does Corruption Affect the Poor?

With the World Bank’s goal to end extreme poverty by 2030, it has stated that corruption is a major challenge to overcome all around the world. Corruption disproportionately affects the poor in terms of price gouging and reducing access to social services such as “health, education and justice.” Because corruption is still prevalent, there is a disconnect between the citizens and their trust in government, continuing to perpetuate “discontent that leads to fragility, violent extremism and conflict,” according to the World Bank. This makes poor peoples’ lives more difficult when a country’s government does not invest in its “human capital.”

What is Happening in Laos?

Laos is still developing as a country, resulting in many weak laws and authorities neglecting enforcement. A 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Laos, that the U.S. Department of State conducted, reported officers practicing arbitrary arrests due to a “provision of the law that permits warrantless arrests in urgent cases,” which makes it easier and allows officers to continue to extort people for bribes or as a tactic for intimidation. Employers fired more than 1,300 low-ranking police officers nationwide from their jobs after they took bribes from drug traffickers and motorists in 2016 under then Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulthin. The results of doing this may help impoverished Lao citizens from intimidation by cops all around the country and partially eliminate corruption in Laos.

The State Inspection Authority reported that the Lao government lost funding for multiple types of currency equaling around $732 million since 2016 due to corruption. Inspectors found that Lao state officials and company executives were misusing funds for various state projects. They also found that road and bridge construction projects as a major activity for graft. Embezzlement lessened the funding going directly to these projects. Because of this, the optimal level of implementation of projects for construction and better roads is not possible, which makes transportation and quality of living difficult for Laos’ citizens.

Companies are at higher risk of facing corruption in Laos when acquiring permits, especially as the regulations implemented in Laos are “often vague and conflicting,” resulting in legislation not being well implemented and enforced under the law. Bribery and incentivizing undocumented extra payments can be more common for public utilities, especially when government officials have low wages.


The State Inspection Authority continues to investigate targets as well as state investment programs to account for losses from corruption. Over a span of five years from 2016 to 2020, it had prosecuted 140 employees involved in government, state-owned enterprises and private companies. The office of the President is now directly supervising the State Inspection Authority to effectively investigate government performance and civil servants. There also was a State Inspectors Authority Inspectors Anti-Corruption workshop that took place in February 2022. It focused on “the general definition of anti-corruption, forms and gift of corruption, laundering proceeds of corruption and anti-corruption lessons learned in Laos,” allowing participants to understand their role in fighting corruption in Laos.

The Lao PDR is moving forward to attempt to fight corruption, doing two complete cycles of its UNCAC Review addressing issues such as technical capacity-building needs to investigate finances. The UNODC held in-person training on anti-corruption and financial investigations, even bringing officials from seven different provinces in Laos. Doing this allows authorities to learn how to do financial investigations through online and offline sources, making it easier to expose corruption and hold both public officials and private companies accountable.

Moving Forward

While corruption in Laos is still prominent, the Lao PDR has been working to combat the issue. As Laos continues its fight, the country can invest in its “human capital” to improve its people’s quality of life, as well as make the Lao people more confident in their government. As long as there are continuous efforts to eliminate corruption in Laos, the Lao people will be further away from facing poverty in the future.

– Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Global Opioid Crisis
Political pundits and policymakers have acknowledged the severity of the U.S. opioid crisis. However, there is also a drug that is quietly wreaking havoc on developing nations. Many have touted tramadol as a safer alternative to other opioids. However, it has instead fostered addiction in the poorest nations and bankrolled terrorists. Authorities fear that the drug’s growing popularity may even destabilize entire regions, causing the global opioid crisis.

Is Tramadol Safe?

At first glance, it is not clear how tramadol is fueling the global opioid crisisIn 2021, the National Institute of Health (NIH) released a study declaring that tramadol has “a low potential for abuse” and has a significantly lower rate of nonmedical use than comparator opioids.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has reviewed the drug several times. It recommended against regulation in its most recent report. The main reasons are its concerns that regulation may hinder access to the drug in developing nations.

However, a closer look at the drug and its effect on the developing world demonstrates clearly how tramadol is fueling the global opioid crisisTramadol is an opioid that medical professionals use to treat moderate to severe pain. It may cause nausea, dizziness, constipation, headaches, respiratory depression and even death.

Tramadol and the Global Opioid Crisis

Despite its presentation as a safe alternative to opioids such as Vicodin, there are plentiful examples of how tramadol is fueling the global opioid crisis:

  1. The illicit market for tramadol is booming. Grünenthal, a German company, originally manufactured the drug for medicinal purposes. However, inadequate access to medicine in the developing world allowed the illicit market to blossom. Lower prices and immediate access to illicit painkillers relieved the shortcomings of poor health care structures, as UNODC reported. Most of these drugs are coming from India. Pill factories have been meeting the demand for tramadol pills by shipping them across the planet in illegal amounts. The demand for these drugs and the absence of regulation keep such illicit trade profitable. U.S. law enforcement has estimated that its seizures of tramadol tablets leaving India in the 2017-2018 period exceeded 1 billion.
  2. Tramadol addiction is rampant in West Africa. According to the UNODC report, “opioids and their nonmedical use have reached an alarming state in West Africa.” The report collected data from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger and Togo. Tramadol seized in West Africa in 2017 accounted for 77% of the tramadol seized globally. It also acknowledged that non-medical use of tramadol is ubiquitous in Niger, where it is the narcotic people are most familiar with. The number of narcotics seized in Nigeria nearly doubled from 53 to 92 tons between 2016 to 2017. The report showed that overall, tramadol is the most popular opioid as it accounts for 91% of all pharmaceutical opioids seized in West Africa in 2017.
  3. The UNODC report on tramadol in West Africa highlighted one of the most sinister aspects of how tramadol is fueling the global opioid crisis. The report stated that “it cannot be denied…that there may be a link between tramadol trafficking and terrorist groups.” The report cited examples of Al Qaeda prompting its followers to trade tramadol to finance its terrorist operations as well as Boko Haram fighters depending on the drug before attacks. The statistics support these claims. According to CSIS, law enforcement intercepted $75 million worth of tramadol heading to the Islamic State group from India in 2017. Authorities also confiscated another 600,000 tablets bound for Boko Haram and found 3 million in a truck in Niger. In May 2017, authorities seized 37 million pills in Italy. Isis had bought them and intended to sell them for profit.

Tramadol Trouble Shooting

Despite the growing problem, many have paid attention. For instance, UNODC met in July 2019 to discuss its West Africa report. Representatives from West Africa, India, the European Union (EU), Interpol and WHO were a few of the guests that attended the meeting to discuss how tramadol is fueling the global opioid crisis.

Not only are organizations, nations and individuals paying attention, but they are also actively strategizing to mitigate the crisis. The meeting highlighted the need for international cooperation and increased law enforcement. Lastly, there was great emphasis on the need for uniform regulation of the pharmaceuticals, in hopes that cooperation would crush the illicit market while meeting demand.

– Richard Vieira
Photo: Unsplash

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

5 Progressive Steps Toward Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking in PanamaWithin the last five years, there have been many cases of human trafficking throughout Panama. Human trafficking refers to the use of fraud or coercion in order to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act from a victim. Most trafficking victims in Panama are women from South and Central America, being exploited for sexual purposes. However, children and men are also victims.

Men from South and Central America, China and Vietnam are forced to work in construction, agriculture, mining and restaurants. Children are mainly used for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Tactics used include debt bondage, false promises and threats of reporting illegal immigration. In recent years, police have reported that some traffickers have even used illegal substances as a means to acquire victims. Below are five efforts to tackle the issues posed by human trafficking.

  1. UNODC: The UNODC, or the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, operates in Central America and the Caribbean to provide member states with technical assistance in the fight against serious and organized crime. In late January of 2020, the UNODC partnered with the General Secretariat of the National Commission against Trafficking in Persons to hold an informative breakfast in Panama to share its progress and challenges. The event also welcomed people to volunteer their support and funding through the Unit for the Identification and Care of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. There is hope that through events like this, the government of Panama will continue to make developments and advancements in putting an end to human trafficking. Hope remains that these efforts will also inspire more volunteering from those willing to work against the crime.
  2. National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family: In 2019, Panama made efforts to reduce the likelihood and prominence of child labor throughout the country. One of these efforts included the implementation of the National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family (SENNIAF). This agency conducts inspections to identify children living through child labor practices. Shelters for victims of trafficking, as well as care plans for children who were previously used as child laborers, are also available through this agency.
  3. Reforms in Law: In 2011, the government of Panama enacted Law 79. The law deals with trafficking in persons and related activities, thereby providing the legislative framework regarding human trafficking. The law aims to provide victims with respect in regard to their status. The initial step of this process requires public servants to immediately report to the police if they believe a person may be a victim of human trafficking, as outlined by Article 44. After a person is confirmed to be a victim of trafficking, Article 47 states that the person is allowed to stay in the country for at least 90 days in order for the victim to both physically and emotionally recover. Possibly, the most significant provision that the government has implemented is in Article 37. The portion asserts that no victim of human trafficking may be detained, accused or processed for entering the country illegally.
  4. International Organization for Migration: Headquartered in Panama, the IOM works to support the efforts of the government in Panama to develop and implement plans to prevent, investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, while protecting victims. In line with the annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, 2021, the IOM held a panel on raising awareness, victim protection and crime prevention. The event was attended by government authorities and members of civil society. Its main goal was to analyze the advances and challenges associated with the issue of trafficking, as well as to develop a perspective of human rights for the protection of trafficking victims.
  5. Districts Free of Child Labor Initiatives: The government of Panama created anti-child labor agreements such as the SENNIAF listed above. Through efforts made by these agencies, Panama has experienced an increase in victim identifications, as well as training and awareness of the issue among its population.

Three Key Improvements

As a result of many of these efforts, the following improvements have taken place.

  • Child labor training was provided to 105 law enforcement officials, 55 prosecutors and 21 tourism authorities.
  • A local NGO identified 1,497 cases of child labor in 2019. Of the cases, 1,444 received care, scholarships and follow-ups from a program for 3 years in regard to academic work.

  • The Labor Inspectorate carried out 945 inspections for child labor.

The Road Ahead

Though much progress had been made in eliminating human trafficking within Panama, more work is required to see a definitive elimination in cases. A key way to work on eliminating the issue is by spreading awareness of the issue to others; human trafficking is no different. Through the work of many organizations and agencies, Panama has seen an increase in the knowledge of the matter, and the government keeps the hope that trafficking will no longer persist.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

The Opium Epidemic In MyanmarMyanmar has been suffering from an opium epidemic for decades. The country’s political instability and lack of economic opportunities outside of the world of illicit drugs are driving it. However, various initiatives are emerging to encourage another way of life. A French coffee company has emerged to give opium-producing communities hope and offer them an alternative livelihood.

The Opium Epidemic in Myanmar

Myanmar is the second-largest producer of opium in the world. The poppies the country produces end up as heroin, which is transported to neighboring countries. Alternatively, Myanmar citizens themselves purchase it for use. Opium use has historically been medicinal or traditional, with people offering it at ceremonies such as weddings. However, more serious drug-related issues have arisen. There are now many cases of HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C. This is due to the general switch to the more cost-effective manner of injecting heroin rather than smoking it, resulting in the unsanitary sharing of needles.

Due to the long-lasting political instability in the country, the health system collapsed whilst international aid dwindled as a political response to the deteriorating governance in Myanmar. In this time, the production and consumption of drugs also skyrocketed.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2006 and 2014, the production of opium increased from 240 tons to 670 tons per annum. This is due to a mix of factors, such as poppies being more lucrative than other crops. This resulted in a rise in living costs for these impoverished farmers. Ultimately, for many, there are no other viable means of making enough money. However, an initiative to fight the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee has emerged to make a difference.

Alternative Development

The UNODC works with governments and other organizations in Southeast Asia, where poppy cultivation and consumption is rife, to create programs of alternative development. The aim of this is to permanently eradicate poppy cultivation by providing sustainable alternative livelihoods to producers.

In 2014, in an attempt to alleviate the opium epidemic in Myanmar, the UNODC set up the Green Gold Cooperative (GGC), which brings together many families from various villages in the Shan state to give them an alternative livelihood to opium production. Shan is a northern state of Myanmar, producing 90% of the country’s opium.

The cooperative provides a change in occupation for almost 1,000 farmers. In addition, it is giving the community social space facilities such as nurseries. This initiative works on several levels, including working to improve gender equality, with 50% of the administration board being women. The cooperative continues to evolve as a success story, having received its Fairtrade certification in 2019.

Malongo and the Green Gold Cooperative (GGC)

Malongo is a French coffee company, and in 2017, it formed a partnership with the GGC and the UNODC, subsequently launching its new Shan Mountain Coffee in 2019. For Malongo, this was not simply a charitable act to fight the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee. First and foremost, this was a business initiative as the company wanted to create a market alternative where the workers benefit from the added value of the high-quality coffee they produce, and, where consumers can be sure of the quality when purchasing it on the international market. Malongo, therefore, provided training for each stage of coffee production.

There were other substantial local benefits that came from this business initiative. Not only did it provide livelihoods, but it also increased peace through uniting different ethnic groups in the region that historically were in conflict to work together and leave poppy cultivation behind. These local groups can also consume their coffee, an evidently safer alternative to the opium they used to produce.

Coffee production has also helped environmentally as poppy cultivation brought about deforestation, soil erosion and decreased biodiversity. Now, many former poppy fields are becoming forests and the replacement production of coffee provides eco-friendly and sustainable crops. The farmers take great pride in coffee production. The particular coffee even became internationally sought out in top markets due to its high quality.

The Role of Foreign Aid

The importance of foreign aid in fighting the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee is unprecedented. Germany and Finland were the main financers of the development program, with Switzerland providing resources directly to the GGC.

USAID has also played a key role by giving technical assistance and market advice to locals since 2013, helping more than 8,000 farmers with the quality and sale of their coffee beans. This foreign aid has, in turn, meant these countries benefit directly from their work abroad as Myanmar now exports coffee to more than 16 countries, including the U.S.

These alternative production initiatives have significantly improved the economic, social and environmental situations for the farmers involved, and, overall opium poppy production is decreasing in Myanmar. This has served private sector interests as Malongo’s return from its investment is embodied in its high-quality coffee range. Additionally, countries such as the U.S. can now enjoy an emerging and increasingly stable trading partner in Myanmar. This initiative, benefiting all parties involved, is proof that public and private interests can overlap and bring about profound and long-lasting change in suffering communities.

Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr