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Fears over human trafficking amidst Ebola

SEPTEMBER 5, 2014 By Alusine Sesay

The Centre for Youths and Exploited Children-Sierra Leone (CeYEC-SL) has expressed fears over “some unscrupulous humanitarian organizations” that may want to take advantage of the current Ebola epidemic in the country to traffic orphan children to unknown locations.

National Coordinator of the centre, Abu Bakarr Kargbo, noted that the Ebola disease has claimed many lives and devastated many families and communities, thus exposing women and children to traffickers.

“Some fictitious humanitarian organizations and criminal networks might prey on these vulnerably families and communities to carry out their act, hiding under the cloak of protecting and supporting the victims,” he noted. “Such cases of human trafficking activities could emanate from complex emergencies such as the current Ebola [crisis] in Sierra Leone.”

He added that the Ebola outbreak has rendered a large number of children orphans and in some cases other close relatives who might have stepped in to provide for their daily sustenance and educational needs have died of the disease.

“Sierra Leone is particularly affected by the scourge of human trafficking. All the elements of modern-day slavery and human exploitation are present in post conflict Sierra Leone. The country is struggling to overcome social fragmentation, poverty and the constant debilitating presence of organized crime and corruption,” Kargbo maintained, adding that during the 11 years civil war, scores of Sierra Leonean children were trafficked by individuals and charity organizations, which had torn many families apart and many more with anguish and agony.

“Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Through forced fraud and or coercion, people are recruited, harboured and transported for the purpose of exploitation. Not only is human trafficking one of the most grotesque violations of human rights, but also a lucrative crime for perpetrators.”

Kargbo said with annual profits as high as US$36 billion per year, human trafficking ranks as the world’s third most profitable crime after illicit drug and arms trafficking.

The CeYEC-SL national coordinator further pointed out that people are transported around the world to work in prostitution, pornography, construction, housekeeping, agriculture and drugs deal, noting that thousands are coerced or forced into a growing black market trade in human body parts.

“Trafficking victims are dehumanized and suffer grave physical and mental illness and often die at the hands of their captors and exploiters,” he noted.

CeYEC-SL, he said, was established to raise awareness and sensitize the public on the dangers of human trafficking, as well as to foster the rights of offenders and ensure that they are brought to justice.