Human trafficking to pick up 6 months after Haiyan

A young survivor of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Children are among the most vulnerable in disasters. Photo by: R. Rocamora / UNHCR

The sooner children can be back in school and family livelihood can be restored following a natural disaster, the less vulnerable a family — or individuals within it — is to human trafficking.

But the problem doesn’t end with those immediate consequences.

Next to the high risk directly after a disaster, “six to 18 months later is when you start to see a lot of trafficking, and as we know, the media spotlight is no longer on these situations,” Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell, senior legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services, told Devex.

When a family’s resources remain stressed months after the calamity is when they might consider selling a child or making a rash decision to cross an international border, said Gerschutz-Bell.

Immediate family tracing to help scattered individuals reunite before children are wrongfully assumed orphaned, as well as providing continued assistance to extended families who are taking in their displaced relatives, are important piece of an effective anti-trafficking framework.

It’s often these initiatives that might not include the word trafficking — and might not be as obvious — that can make a difference and reduce vulnerabilities, explained Gerschutz-Bell.

The mass migration that takes place after a natural disaster such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines often makes addressing solutions to achieve this much more difficult. Whether from rural to urban areas or urban areas across borders, post-disaster migration puts people, especially women children, at much greater risk and requires both immediate and long-term support.

Haiyan affected more than 16 million people with 4 million displaced, according to the country’s disaster management agency. And out of the thousands of survivors relocated to Manila and Cebu, a yet unknown number of youngsters have already been snatched by mafias to be sold to prostitution dens and modern slavemasters, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, convenor of the Philippines’ Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking, told Devex last week.

Stay tuned for next week’s Development Insider, which will include an in-depth article about best practices to combat human trafficking in post-disaster situations.

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About the author

  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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