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Brazil Floods: Peak for Human Trafficking

4 Comments 18 January 2011

Brazil Floods: Peak for Human Trafficking

Fatalities from Brazil’s floods reached 665 today. But the number of defenseless victims of the flood has yet to be quantified. These victims are children who will be exploited for commercial sex trafficking and exploitation.

Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT USA told WaterWideWeb, “Natural disasters contribute to human trafficking, especially of children.” Brazil was already notorious for the black market in commercial sex trafficking before the floods began.

Now, chaos from the flood creates a complicated situation where families and children are separated. It’s a time when traffickers can swoop in and steal the lives of innocent children and sell them to the underground sex market.

“The thing that makes children vulnerable is the disintegration of their communities. Kids are separated from their family,” continued Smolenski. Clearly, entire communities will be  disrupted because of the Brazil floods.

Government agencies are overwhelmed with obligations to manage the publicly visible catastrophes from the natural disaster. Attending to victims of exploitation and sexual violence is difficult enough in times of normalcy. In the face of natural disaster, the task is compounded by families looking for lost loved ones, and the collapse of organization at the local level.

Maria Andrade, UNICEF’s Programme Specialist in Brazil said, “There is a lot of mobilization…but we have problems with information. The information system is weak.” If information can’t travel between relief workers in a timely manner, it is possible that the devastation of the flood may prove much greater than may be perceived at present.

“You can pretty much predict that unless these communities have great preventative programs in place, some of these children will be trafficked and exploited,” concluded Smolenski. Reports about the Brazil floods indicate that relief efforts have not been able to reach all parts of the country that were affected by the flood. Even if preventative programs to detect and prevent human trafficking were in place, there are parts of the country that they simply can not reach.

Floods pose innumerable threats to local communities, including the spread of communicable diseases, the loss of livelihoods, and sadly, as is the case in Brazil, the loss of innocence for children who will be trafficked and exploited.

Increasing global awareness about the likelihood of children being trafficked because of the floods is one small part of the effort to save the lives of children and others who may never been seen or heard from again.

ECPAT International has published a handbook to instruct emergency workers about protecting children against commercial sex trafficking following a natural disaster. Please access the handbook here

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