Whenever a natural disaster like last week’s earthquake in Haiti occurs, the most vulnerable victims are always the hundreds of orphans left behind. In addition to disease and hunger, these children are at risk of being swept into the world of human trafficking.
Nicolette Grams writes in The Atlantic:
With parents dead, government offices demolished, and international aid organizations struggling to meet life-or-death demands, these kidnappers are in a unique position to snatch children with very little interference.
In Haiti, as in India, human trafficking is a problem at the best of times. Even without the pandemonium unleashed by a 7.0 earthquake, an estimated quarter-million Haitian children are trafficked within the country each year. These slaves, known as restavecs, are typically sold or given away to new families by their own impoverished parents. Physical and sexual abuse is common for restavecs. Many owners use the girls as in-house prostitutes, sending them to live on the street if they become pregnant.
In addition to concerns about trafficking, some advocates warn that intact families will be broken up if proper procedures are not in place:
Children’s advocacy groups have warned against new procedures instilled in the face of an emergency, saying recent natural disasters, particularly the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, created a free-for-all in which thousands of infants were rounded up and airlifted to nations without their family background being properly checked.
“While both airlifts and new adoptions are based on valid concerns and come from an obviously loving heart, neither option is considered viable by any credible child welfare organisation,” said the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a US advocacy group. “Bringing children into the US either by airlift or new adoption during a time of national emergency can open the door for fraud, abuse and trafficking.”