ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) on Friday sent a letter to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) asking them to probe into rumours that women were vanishing from relief camps set up for flood victims.
Yasmeen Rehman, advisor to the Prime Minister on Women Development, told The Express Tribune that that MoWD had also contacted Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) about the rumours.
“FIA and IOM teams on provincial and country exit points, like Rahim Yar Khan and Karachi, have been put on high alert,” she added.
According to Rehman, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Aurat Foundation had informed MoWD a few weeks back that human traffickers were active in the relief camps.
“There was a rumor that 15-16 girls along with some local health workers went missing from relief camps in Jaffarabad, Multan, Muzaffargarh , Rahim Yar Khan and Mansehra,” she said.
While the ministry officials wait for these NGOs to provide specific details, they decided to play it safe and contact the relevant agencies. Yasmeen added that the ministry will take concrete steps to prevent human trafficking after they received a response from NDMA.
Waseem Wagha, National Coordinator Research and Advocacy at Aurat Foundation, said, “Our workers came across these rumours during their relief work and conveyed it to us. Taking the gravity of these rumours into consideration, we decided to share the information with MoWD.”
Saleem Rehmat, spokesperson IOM, said they were working closely with FIA. “Up till now we have not come across such incidents nor have we received any reports about it,” he said.
However, Rehmat added, women and children are always on high risk of being trapped by human traffickers during natural disasters.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2010.