One of the most horrific and prevalent cases of exploitation in our world today is human trafficking, or Trafficking in Persons (TIP). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that nearly every country in the world is affected by TIP—an industry that brings in almost $150 billion annually, making it amongst the most lucrative criminal businesses. Even in the U.S., a place typically overlooked in terms of this issue, officials are seeing a significant rise in the amount of cases that occur.
While Plan International’s work has not been traditionally marketed as anti-trafficking, the idea that women and children are being treated as commodities goes against everything Plan stands for. Plan works to directly prevent exploitation through strengthening systems that help individuals avoid it.
Plan focuses on preventative interventions in order to effectively alleviate the circumstances that drive this illicit business, therefore demonstrating a comprehensive approach to tackling the origins of the problem.
For example, in the event of natural disasters or situations of conflict, the rights of children and communities both during and after emergencies are vulnerable. Plan’s expertise in the areas of disaster and conflict addresses the ability of communities to rebound from external shocks and overcome accompanying barriers, including TIP.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left individuals throughout many parts of Southeast Asia and the Philippines homeless, displaced, orphaned, and vulnerable. Following the disaster, the International Organization for Migration noted that the vulnerability of more than 6,000 homeless and displaced individuals created an opportunity for traffickers to deceive or coerce individuals into exploitative practices.
In 2015, an earthquake in Nepal left hundreds of thousands of families without basic necessities. The Indian Times, when reporting on the earthquake, noted a fear of an increase in trafficking. When men ventured outside of communities to find food, women and children were left alone, and traffickers were hunting these populations with the goal of exploiting their vulnerability. Shortly after, a report by the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal revealed a 15 percent increase in occurrences of TIP immediately following the country’s earthquake.
Plan International has run multiple programs in Nepal and the Philippines:
- The Building Back Better in Tacloban Project sought to help individuals with improved shelter, water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.
- The Strengthening Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction Project focused on covering gaps and enhancing disaster risk reduction and management capabilities of local government units.
- The Promoting Agriculture, Health, and Alternative Livelihoods Project is a five-year food-security program focusing on implementing community-led sanitation promotion to contribute to overall nutrition for children and their families.
- Action Against Child Trafficking targets high-risk, heavy-transit areas between Nepal and India, aiming to create and strengthen community protection groups, as well as promote government leadership and accountability.
Plan’s work builds the capability of various communities to deal with a threat before it happens—and while the impact is harder to measure, it is certainly one worth acknowledging. As mentioned above, trafficking is fueled by vulnerability and vulnerability thrives in situations of disaster and conflict. Plan empowers and encourages communities to thrive in the wake of disaster, while decreasing and disempowering the ability of exploitation to do the same.