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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Typhoon sparks Philippine child trafficking fears, says charity

MANILA: A Britain-based children’s charity has asked the Philippines to investigate the suspected recruitment of child workers for sex trafficking in a region devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, an aid official said.

Plan International said it was concerned about five high school girls who were recruited after the Nov 8 typhoon in Basey and Marabut, two impoverished coastal towns on the island of Samar that sustained heavy damage and casualties.

Aid groups have expressed concern over the trafficking threat sparked after Haiyan left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing.

Children who have lost their parents in the disaster, as well as adults in desperate search of work, are especially vulnerable, groups say.

“Samar is known as a source area for human traffickers,” Plan International Philippines anti-trafficking project officer Shirley Vastero said, adding the girls were recruited by a family friend.

She said “hundreds” of women from Samar have ended up working in the red-light district of the northern city of Olongapo since 2008, when Plan International began a campaign against human trafficking on the island.

While the promised work for the five girls sounded legitimate, aid workers were suspicious because the parents were told their daughters would be working only at night, she said.

“They were recruited to work as sales ladies in a Manila bakery, but what kind of bakery is open only from 6.00pm until midnight?”

Vastero said she did not have the exact age of the girls, adding that the Welfare Department had promised to look into the case.

United Nations agencies, foreign governments, as well as aid groups including Plan International are helping millions of survivors who lost relatives, homes, jobs, or all three. — AFP

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