The hearts of compassionate people around the world have been broken by the devastation in Haiti. Because you are one of those compassionate people, we know you have no doubt responded, as we have individually, to their immediate need for shelter, food, clothing and comfort.
There is another group of people responding to this crisis-not with compassion, but with malevolence. As the experiences of the tsunami and other natural disasters have already shown, the secondary disaster lurking for many shocked and helpless people is slavery. Traffickers use the opportunity presented by desperation, grief, and disorientation to lure or abduct suffering people with promises of help. Please continue to keep this secondary threat in mind as you consider how to help mitigate the disaster in Haiti.
Haiti is no stranger to human trafficking. The restevek phenomenon has been going on in Haiti for many years. Resteveks are children from the countryside sent by their desperate families to live and work as servants with families in the city on the promise of attending school. Too often the promised education is never given and the child becomes a slave.
Haiti is now grappling with an even greater child trafficking misery. Unscrupulous people are preying on children, many of whom have lost their entire family in the earthquake and are both physically and emotionally traumatized. They are easy prey for sex traffickers who take them from their communities and put them into “product” distribution networks around the world to meet the sick demand for sex with young and vulnerable children.
What is being done?
The international community is rallying around Haiti in this issue. The U.S. State Department is working closely with UNICEF and various international and local nongovernmental organizations to stop the trafficking of children in Haiti in these chaotic post-earthquake days and weeks. ECPAT-USA has drafted a manual about protecting children from trafficking and sexual violence during emergencies, such as the one in Haiti.
Though Shared Hope has no direct presence in Haiti, we continue to fight sex trafficking throughout the world. And along with you, we pray for Haiti’s recovery and protection of its children.