January 23, 2014

Women and Children at risk from Human Trafficking in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

Since Typhoon Haiyan struck on 8 November 2013, the world has seen horrific images of the damage it inflicted on the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest natural disaster in the Philippine’s history, has claimed the lives of over 6,500 people, with more bodies still being found.

The typhoon also left 1.9 million people homeless and more than 6,000,000 people displaced. Immediate action on issues such as food, shelter, disease prevention and re-building of infrastructure are usually what come to mind first following such a disaster, and funds such as the Mercy International Association Philippine Support Fund are excellent ways of supporting the work concentrating on those issues.

Another crisis that occurs and yet is often overlooked following humanitarian crises, is the issue of human trafficking and child abduction. In the aftermath of previous natural disasters, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, vulnerable people were found to have been exploited by trafficking gangs. Sadly in the Philippines, a real risk of violence, sexual exploitation, and trafficking now faces women and children, as those who have lost their homes, families and livelihoods experience a lack of protection and provision for their needs, growing more vulnerable as time goes on.

The Philippine government has established a special anti-trafficking commission to prevent children displaced by the typhoon from being targeted and exploited by traffickers; however concerns have been raised by children’s charities about the vulnerabilities of such young people.  After Yolanda: What children think, need and recommend is a report written by Leah Finnegan, on behalf of Save the Children, World Vision, Plan International and UNICEF.  It found that 41% of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan are children. It also detailed some of the specific risks for children and young people, which include separation of children and youth from parents and families as well as disruption to education in the middle of the school year, including loss of a protective environment during the day.

Sisters of Mercy in the Philippines are also working to prevent human trafficking in the aftermath of typhoon, and have been encouraged by the work of Fr Shay Cullen of Preda Foundation. Preda (People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance) is a charitable organization, founded by Fr Shay in the Philippines in 1974. It works to promote and to protect the dignity and the Human Rights of the Filipino people, especially of women and children, focusing on assisting sexually-exploited and abused children.

M Carmela Cabactulan rsm, Superior of The Religious Sisters of Mercy (Philippines), has written to those involved with opposing human trafficking at Mercy to share her joy at meeting Fr Shay. Sr Carmela explained that Fr Shay and his group are working to protect suspected victims of human trafficking, and this is work that she and other RSMs will also get involved with, in the coming weeks.  "Please God, I can get our young people with us in school involved in protecting displaced families from Human Trafficking" writes Sr Carmela. "It is an enormous job but I will try to get Sisters and others with me to do it". Sr Carmela also asks for the prayers of the Mercy community at this time.  "Help me pray for courage and strength" she asks.  

Donate to the Philippines Mercy Support Fund – Details here

Messages to – Mary Purcell, Assistant Director Mercy Global Action

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