THE biggest threat to Nepal’s children, three months after two earthquakes devastated the popular South Asian country is no longer the spread of disease or even the fear of another tremor: it’s trafficking.
UNICEF, a long term presence in Nepal and active immediately following the April 25 earthquake and May 12 quake, holds grave concerns that children already displaced and vulnerable will be easy targets for traffickers.
1.1 million children live in areas affected by earthquakes that killed 9,000 people and destroyed homes, communities and put hundreds of thousands out of work. The first earthquake, which struck three months ago now, was the biggest Nepal had experienced in 80 years.
UNICEF acted quickly to house displaced families, reunite children with their parents or close relatives, install systems for clean water and waste, immunise children against the rapid spread of disease and provide safe places for children to resume their schooling.
Yet, despite the quick response a threat still lingers.
In Nepal, trafficking was rife even before the earthquake, with an estimated 12,000 Nepalese children trafficked to India every year. Girls not recruited into prostitution face being sold as domestic slaves, and boys are taken into forced labour.
UNICEF fears its efforts, along with the efforts of Government and other partners, will need to grow to ensure the risk of trafficking does not increase. Already, at the end of June, UNICEF helped stop 245 children from being trafficked, but realises it’s the tip of a growing iceberg.
For some children there are no parents to protect them from the offers made by traffickers, which include the promise of a home, safety and security along with more tangible things like food and school.
“Traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but the reality is that many children could end up being horrendously exploited and abused,” UNICEF Nepal Representative Tomoo Hozumi said.
Image: On 26 May, Lakpa Sherpa, 8, holding a small container, sits near adults harvesting wheat, in a field in Dolakha Bazar, near the town of Charikot in Dolakha District, epicentre of the 12 May earthquake (Credit: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1493/Sokol).
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.