Children in Peril

Our hearts go out to all the victims of the recent tsunami, Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler said, and reports that the youngest victims are being kidnapped and sold into slavery are a profoundly disturbing reminder that child trafficking and sexual slavery are pervasive and unsolved problems in our world.

On Monday, barely a week after the tsunami devastated part of Asia, United Nations and officials at other organizations began warning that predators were on the ground in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, kidnapping orphaned and displaced children to sell them into slavery. One UNICEF official received an unsolicited text message that offered children age three to ten for sale. Some 35,000 children in Indonesia alone have lost parents, and UNICEF estimates that 1.5 million children were “made vulnerable” by the tsunami.

“There was trafficking in kids a month ago, a year ago, five years ago,” United States Fund for UNICEF President Chip Lyons said on NBC’s Today Show Wednesday. “It’s going to be worse because of this situation.”

Indonesian officials have already taken steps to prevent the removal of children under age 16 from their provinces, and other nations are following suit, but enforcement is difficult given the chaos wrought by the disaster.

The Women and Media Collective surveyed women and children in refugee camps in Sri Lanka in the week after the tsunami, and concluded that rape and sexual assault are common, reports United Press International. Troops are concentrating on the distribution of food and medical supplies, aid workers say, and not on protecting and preventing the exploitation of victims.

“Today, the women who survived the tsunami suffer from multiple trauma,” said United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer. “The special protection needs of women and girls require attention, and the voices and perspectives of women and women’s support networks need to be given visibility… In short, women must be at the heart of the relief efforts and the rebuilding of shattered communities.”

“Child trafficking and sexual slavery are global epidemics,” Soler said. “The United States and the international community must put more energy and resources into stopping it. The Family Violence Prevention Fund will work aggressively with Congress to identify and fund initiatives that can finally put a stop to those who exploit tragedies and profit from the sale of women and children.”

The Family Violence Prevention Fund invites advocates to join it in making donations to UNICEF, UNIFEM and other relief agencies.

Make donations online:

Save the Children
American Red Cross
World Childhood Foundation

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