(Uttarakhand, 05 July 2013) Women and children who have survived floods in India could now be at risk of being sold as brides, sex workers and domestic workers say ActionAid.
The aid agency’s concerns come from previous disasters where human traffickers have preyed on vulnerable families.
Debabrat Patra, ActionAid’s regional manager for Uttarakhand said:
“Displacement of people on such a massive scale increases their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. We saw human trafficking peak after the 2004 tsunami, Orissa cyclone and Latur earthquake and we have fears that the same will happen here.
“Very often it is people known to the family, like a distant relative or a neighbour, who are the first link in the chain. Their proximity to the family allows them to target the most vulnerable and they end up in brick kilns as bonded labourers or in various brothels across the country.”
After floods in India in 2008, many organisations with the help of the police set up check-points at major railway stations and bus-stations to intercept so-called agents engaged in the trafficking of children and girls. These immediate preventative measures are important, but should also be combined with long-term rehabilitation and restoration for affected families.
“To prevent human trafficking in an emergency, you have to address the root cause. It’s the loss of livelihoods that push people to such desperate measures and this is what must be tackled in the humanitarian response,” said Patra.
As part of its immediate response to the floods ActionAid has reached out to 400 households and supplied food, clothes, temporary shelter and medicines. The organisation has plans to reach out to at least 120 villages in the worst affected districts of Uttarakhand and work with the State in restoring livelihoods and shelters.