WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday, April 25, International Justice Mission's (IJM) staff in Kolkata warn of the potential for increased vulnerability to human trafficking due to a lack of security and resources like food, water and shelter.
"Many people are now homeless, and girls will be lured to leave, believing Nepal is now prone to disaster," says Moumita Khati, a social worker for IJM. "Disasters tend to make people more vulnerable to trafficking."
As many as 7,000 women and girls are trafficked from Nepal to India every year, and around 200,000 are now working in Indian brothels, according to UNICEF. The United Nations estimates that Nepal is one of Asia's poorest nations, with unemployment over 40% and per capita GDP of just $1,000. International Justice Mission, a global human rights organization, works to rescue victims of sex trafficking and other forms of everyday violence, restore survivors and transform broken justice systems and has partnered with several aftercare homes in Nepal.
"The road to recovery will be very long, and we encourage local officials in Nepal and the bordering nation of India to protect the scores of children and young women who are particularly vulnerable to violence like trafficking and sexual exploitation," says Saju Mathew, IJM's Vice President of Operations in South Asia.
Catastrophic disasters increase the risk of trafficking for poor families and girls. According to a 2012 report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, "some people exploit the chaotic environment that follows a natural disaster to engage in criminal activities, such as selling children for the purpose of illegal adoption, forced labor or sexual exploitation."
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, IJM Kolkata staff activated an emergency evacuation plan and began attempts to make contact with 34 women – two IJM social workers and 32 young women who had been rescued from Indian brothels who are now living back home in Nepal. IJM has confirmed that all the women are safe.
"[One of the shelters] is a beautiful home with A-plus facilities," Khati said. "It's very homey and family-based, where the girls are mentored to be leaders."
In the disaster aftermath, Khati was able to get in touch with the director of one of the aftercare homes via Facebook to confirm the girls were safe.
IJM applauds the efforts of all of the organizations and first responders working to save lives and restore hope in the aftermath of the disaster.
"The earthquake and aftershocks have been devastating," Mathew says. "We must continue to pray for the people of Nepal as they are suffering greatly. We commend the relief efforts and local organizations that are responding immediately."
SOURCE International Justice Mission