By Gaetane Borders
January 12, 2010 is a day that I will not soon forget. It was the day that a massive earthquake leveled Haiti….my parents’ birth home. Although I was born in the U.S., I strongly identify with my Haitian roots, and felt as if a large part of me died along with the over 150,000 people who lost their lives during the natural disaster. What saddened me the most was seeing the images of the bodies of children and babies lined along the street. In fact, I didn’t think it could get worse. But it has.
Many of the orphanages were damaged, and therefore tens of thousands of children are currently living in the temporary camps. In addition, reportedly more than a million people were displaced by last January's devastating quake and are living in dire conditions. These horrible conditions have become a breading ground for trafficking in the small island.
It has been reported that trafficking has always been an issue in Haiti but has grown steadily worse in the last year. Since the earthquake the rates of trafficking into the Dominican Republic have increased incredibly. According to an investigative report by the Miami Herald, the Massacre River is a common crossing point for traffickers. It’s a river that links Haitian town of Ouanaminthe with the Dominican Republic’s Dajabon. There are individuals who are going to the temporary camps and posing those that have come as part of the aid efforts. According to news reports, parents desperate for money are falsely dooped into believing their children will lead better lives elsewhere if they sell them.
Prosguel Andre, 32, an admitted trafficker of the Haitian Cannibal Army gang, has admitted to selling more than 45 children. He has said….
"There are a lot of orphans here. Babies with nobody to care for them. It's easy to take them. Last month, a white woman came from the Dominican Republic. She gave me $500 for two little girls. I don't know what she wanted with them."
What is happening in Haiti is not unique because human trafficking usually increases after natural disasters. For example, the massive tsunami that struck Asia left thousands of children were left vulnerable to similar crimes.
There are organizations that are doing a lot to help bring an end to this disturbing issue. For instance, Unicef is working with the Haitian government to try and introduce anti-trafficking laws. As part of this, the United Nations police force (UNPOL) recently began patrolling these unofficial borders. Also, Hilton Worldwide has promised to combat child sex trafficking by becoming the second US-based hotel company to sign the international code of conduct known as "The Code" which is aimed at protecting children from being sexually exploited in the travel and tourism industries around the world. Hilton will implement policies that condemn child trafficking and also train employees how to spot potentially illegal activities. USA Today reports:
“Last year, Hilton came under fire by online social-justice groups such as Change.org on this issue following the discovery last year of a brothel in one of its hotels in China. In July 2010, Chinese police found a brothel operating in the independently run karaoke bar inside Hilton's five-star Chongqing hotel. At the time, authorities ordered the closure of the hotel for a full week and the hotel lost its fifth star. Although the issue of child trafficking did not come up, the connection was nevertheless made.”
More people and organizations need to get involved because this is an issue that affects every nation! One such organization is ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking). ECPAT and The Body Shop have formed a partnership to create and implement the global “STOP Sex Trafficking of Children & Young People Campaign.” For more information about them and this campaign, please visit www.ecpat.net.