The recent earthquake in Haiti and its aftermath continue to make headlines around the world, but it won’t be long until the attention fades. There are, of course, the immediate needs of safety, rescue, food, water, shelter, and medical care. Many people, in many different places, are at the ready and mobilized to go and help. However, did you know that among the first people to arrive in the midst of a natural disaster are pedophiles?
Haitian young women and children, even before the earthquake struck, were at high risk for rape, trafficking, and other forms of violence. Now, without even the most basic of social structures functioning in some places, and the collapse of some prisons, the risk is exponential. Furthermore, opportunistic predators take advantage of the chaos, fear, and panic to recruit children to be trafficked, forge adoption papers, and use them as weapons of war and/or pawns to gain something else.
Among the relief teams being organized to serve in Haiti, one is heading up a project to protect the vulnerable and prevent violence against children in the immediate and long term relief plans. Global Centurion (www.globalcenturion.org), is taking the lead by developing a collaboration network with other organizations, and partnering with others who have different roles in the relief effort. For example, they are putting messages regarding human trafficking, and how to identify it and protect yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to it.
ECPAT International (End Child Pornography and Trafficking www.ecpatinternational.net ) has published a monograph “Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Violence in Disaster & Emergency Situations” to help organizations and other first responders work through the challenges of protecting the most vulnerable. (http://www.ecpatusa.org/EcpatUSA_PDF/Protecting%20Children%20from%20CSEC%20in%20Disaster_ENG.pdf)
Ultimately, creating a more safe and stable environment for women and children in a society before a humanitarian crisis is ideal for prevention and protection. Doctors at War (www.doctorsatwar.org) is working to mobilize health professionals to help address health consequences of human trafficking. One of the projects I’ve been working on with them is to develop an emergency multi-language phrasebook to assist in history-taking in emergent situations with some trafficking-specific identifying questions.
These complex humanitarian continue to grow more complex these days. To consider all the myriad dangers and pitfalls of a devastating disaster that beset and already hurting people can be overwhelming. Everyone has a different role to play in the relief and recovery process and we will continue to work together for peace, comfort, health, and justice in the name of Love!