One of the biggest problems the world faces today is the prevalence of human trafficking. The Global Slavery Index reports that there are 40.3 million victims of trafficking around the world. This includes those who are coerced into commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor exploitation. Every day, human trafficking happens in every country in the world – and international aid workers, the people on the frontlines helping within communities, can prevent these atrocities from happening.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is defined as the use of fraud, force, and coercion to get people to perform labor or commercial sex acts. Often called ‘modern-day slavery’, this is a crime against humanity – especially against vulnerable communities who are often victimized. In John Coverdale’s book on Human Trafficking: A Treatment Guide for Mental Health Professionals, it was pointed out that many trafficked persons in the United States come from foreign countries with different cultures, and often different languages, making them more susceptible to coercion into dangerous acts.

It is also important to note, however, that human trafficking is more rampant than people think and
does not just happen within migrant populations. In 2019, human trafficker Kashamba John was sentenced to thirty years in prison when a court trial found him guilty of running a sex trafficking ring that targeted runaway youth, women experiencing homelessness, and those with substance abuse disorders. His arrest came after an Uber driver who had received training on recognizing trafficking signs suspected her passenger was experiencing sex trafficking. She reported the incident, and the passenger was one of John’s victims. This demonstrates how insidious human trafficking can be; it highlights the need for trained civilians to help in identifying cases.

What International Aid Workers Are and What They Do

International aid workers can play a huge role in preventing and identifying human trafficking. They’re skilled in managing emergency responses and programs across various countries in the world. Due to the nature of their job, international aid workers often face dangerous circumstances. People In Need shares that over 475 workers around the world were attacked in 2020 alone for their efforts in helping local communities. Despite the risks, these workers stand tall to help people in need, no matter where they are.

Being deeply immersed in vulnerable communities means international aid workers can do a lot to prevent human trafficking. For one, they can talk to communities and train them to spot warning signs of predators and traffickers. They can also be a safe and supportive person who connects and reaffirms that someone is looking out for their best interests. This importance for connection is something Murthy discusses in Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. He explains that, after all, humans are social creatures who crave bonds, and we need to ensure that they are healthy relationships. Helping one another and being together is what makes us stronger. International aid workers can help decrease division and polarization that often leaves many vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.

International aid workers can also advocate for those affected by human trafficking. They can continue the discourse around it and share their experiences from the field. As more people learn about human trafficking and the gravity of the injustice, more support can be raised for these disenfranchised communities.

It might come as a surprise, but international aid workers also need to be wary of those who are claiming to help. In some cases, traffickers will pose as aid workers or volunteers and will take part in human trafficking activity. Such things shouldn’t be hidden—it’s important to include these cases in the discussion. International aid workers need to be aware that things are not always as they seem, and to stay vigilant in looking out for people acting suspiciously or contributing to community harm.

Even if you are not an international aid worker, there is always action you can take to prevent human trafficking. A previous post featuring our Executive Director, Gabrielle Thompson explains how important Free for Life’s prevention program is because it is reaching at-risk populations every day and equipping them with the skills to identify danger and signs of abuse.

We hope this provides you with much needed information so that we can strengthen the community – from the ground up – to protect those who are most in need.

Submitted by Iris Jencen


Want to learn more about vulnerable populations?

watch the intersection of human trafficking & orphan and foster care conference!