About the Author: Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca directs the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
This week, leaders from around the world, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, convened in New York City for the International Donors' Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti.
With an eye toward the partnerships in New York, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Persons would like for you to meet a key on-the-ground partner and grant recipient, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, a non-governmental organization that took swift and efficient action in the days following the January 12 earthquake. These efforts focused on providing social service professionals to team up with the Brigade for the Protection of Minors to ensure that Haitian children are not being trafficked across the border. From Heartland Alliance's team working on-the-ground:
“At the Ouanaminthe border crossing in the countryside of Northeast Haiti, Heartland Alliance teams have worked hard with very limited support and infrastructure to identify children at risk of being trafficked.
“On March 10, our team of Child Protection Officers found a five year-old girl walking alone on the street. Despite efforts by our team to softly ask her questions, the young girl was too nervous to speak. She only responded that her name was Bebe. Concerned for the young girl's safety, our Child Protection Officers got her to the closest interim care facility provided by Catholic Relief Services and announced a description of her on the local radio. Fortunately, not long after the call, her mother and father found her at the center. Our teams were ecstatic that they were able to reunify Bebe with her family, and are very motivated to continue their work.”
This is truly a success story for Bebe and her family. Yet, there are still more men, women, and children in Haiti -- throughout the countryside and within the temporary camps -- at risk of trafficking and exploitation. Thanks to key on-the-ground partnerships, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons continues its anti-trafficking efforts throughout Haiti.
As reflected in the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report, child slavery under the "restavek" system was a grave problem in Haiti even before the earthquake. This is a critical need not only for resources but also for modern statues to make labor and sex trafficking illegal. The United States stands ready to assist the Government of Haiti to "build back better" in this effort.
Read more about the earthquake in Haiti and the international response here.