Murky waters

There are reports that gangs of human traffickers may be taking advantage of the flood crisis.

Editorial September 06, 2010

Every tragedy puts on display some example of human good. We have seen this after the flood, with villagers sharing food with the shelterless and relief workers battling all kinds of odds to reach the affected. But we also see evil, and there are reports that gangs of human traffickers may be taking advantage of this. An NGO is stated to have reported to the ministry for women’s development that around 15-16 girls and women may have been taken from relief camps in various areas. Jaffarabad and Muzaffargarh have been mentioned.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is reported to have been informed and is looking into the matter. International agencies working at camps say they have not come across cases, but the vulnerability of women and children is well-established. Just days ago, in an interview to this publication, the NDMA chief mentioned that 400 or so children may have been separated from their parents. There have been reports that women and children on their own have struggled to obtain food, especially in situations where distribution has been chaotic. The protection needs of women, children and also the elderly need to be met. As people return home care is needed to ascertain children are united with their families. For those who remain at camps more security may be necessary and some listing of women or children on their own so that there is an awareness of the need to look out for them. In many cases responsible community members may be willing to help.

It is however essential that the needs of the most vulnerable are met. The reports of possible abuses coming in need to be taken seriously and addressed urgently. Specialised agencies should be called in to assist in this and also to determine what longer-term protection needs may need to be met as flood affected people begin the task of rebuilding lives shattered by the disaster which so suddenly swept over them.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2010.


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