By Nicholas Trainor
Flooding in Pakistan has already created a humanitarian crisis of extreme proportions, but looming over the region is the threat of an associated disaster – human trafficking.
As the scale of the crisis worsens with an estimated 15 million people already affected and two million homes destroyed, the threat of trafficking is growing.
According to human rights expert, Dr Tahmina Rashid, human trafficking was already a very real threat before the flooding and now, as the monsoonal rains threaten further south, more people stand to be affected by trafficking. She noted Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, saying it was particularly bad.
“Sindh is a hub for human trafficking at the best of times,” Dr Rashid told The Epoch Times, adding, “Anytime there is a natural disaster and human mobility, it will happen,”
The lack of government infrastructure and resources in Pakistan will only make it harder for the appropriate government departments to assure the welfare of the affected population, warns Dr Rashid.
The people at most risk are the women and children of Pakistan who lack empowerment to make their own decisions, and who are most susceptible to kidnapping and exploitation, she said.
According to a report by the human rights group End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, around 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for sexual exploitation as well as to be used as cheap labour.
“Natural disasters such as earthquakes, flood or famine crises may disrupt entire families and communities, leaving children without necessary protection,” says the report.
Isolation plus the slow response from aid agencies and the government’s admission that it lacks the resources to deal with the crisis, do not bode well for the immediate future of the displaced people.
To halt the threat of human trafficking aid agencies such as World Vision are trying to establish infrastructure, such as “child and women friendly centres” to allow families to re-establish, and get over the shock of the disaster.
“There are predators in this world who can take advantage of these terrible disasters and the chaos that ensues,” said World Vision’s Connie Lenneberg on ABC Radio. “All agencies will work together to identify what children are unaccompanied and assure they are looked after while they are without supervision from their direct family members.”
In the aftermath of past natural disasters, such as the Haitian earthquake, human trafficking has flourished, despite the best efforts from aid agencies and governments. According to trafficking experts such as Dr Rashid, the situation in Pakistan will mirror these past calamities.
Abolitionist and human rights expert, Amanda Kloer, believes human trafficking usually takes place in the months after a natural disaster has occurred. If this pattern continues the next period of the relief effort is crucial to stop one disaster producing another.
By Nicholas Trainor