News / Africa

    Sierra Leone Targets Human Trafficking

    Cora, a trafficking survivor, walks with her case manager and social worker in Sierra Leone. Credit: WHI
    Cora, a trafficking survivor, walks with her case manager and social worker in Sierra Leone. Credit: WHI

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    It’s estimated that anywhere from 12-million to 27-million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Humanitarian agencies say human trafficking is a 32-billion dollar a year industry. Sierra Leone is one of the many countries where it takes place.


    World Hope International operates the Trafficking in Persons Recovery Center in Sierra Leone. It describes it as a holistic, high-trauma aftercare facility. WHI Vice-President of Programs John Lyon said that traffickers lure people by making false promises of jobs or a better life.

    “In Sierra Leone, what we’re finding is two principle forms of trafficking – particularly in the labor trafficking area, as well as sex trafficking. It’s hard to put numbers around it. Every country in the world has problems finding highly accurate numbers of what actually is the scope of this problem,” he said.

    Before you can treat victims of human trafficking, you have to find them.

    “We had a case in northern Sierra Leone where a smaller mining firm got young kids to work in this mine. They were burrowing under the earth and some of the kids were actually killed in the mine. The kids were trafficked. They weren’t paid reasonable wages. Our program helped identify that case and brought it to the attention of the local authorities and helped prosecute the case with the Ministry of Mines, as well as with police,” he said.

    Human trafficking not only comes by land, but by sea.

    “We’ve also seen cases involving foreign fishing firms that come in and traffic girls to their ships for purposes of sex. We had one specific case just outside of Freetown where a foreign shipping firm kept docking near the village where we’d been working. And these girls would go to these ships. It came to light that the guys on the ship would come to shore and they’d say, you know, come over to the ship. We can get you a job. We can get you a better life. But what turned out was that they were just using these girls for sex.”

    Lyon said the fishing vessel actually raised anchor and set to sea with several girls on board. WHI reported its findings to local authorities, who intercepted the ship and rescued the girls.

    World Hope International has set up 58 parent groups in the country that watch out for possible human trafficking.

    Lyon said, “In Sierra Leone, the local villages are really the structure that you need to work through to really accomplish any kind of large-scale goal. And so in these 58 villages, we’ve worked with the villagers to help educate and sensitize the villagers as to what human trafficking looks like. What does a human trafficker do when he wants to traffic somebody? Then once that’s been identified in a village they’ll report that to police or other NGOs or the Ministry of Social Welfare. So there’s that referral network that we’ve helped develop.”

    The parent groups have helped identify a number of criminal activities, not just trafficking.

    Once children or adults are freed from or escape from traffickers, Lyon said, they need help healing and reintegrating.

    “We’ll provide treatment for the victim, education, health treatment, as well as mental health treatment. What makes our program very unique in Sierra Leone is that we don’t have a limit to how long that client can stay in our treatment facility. The client can stay as long as it takes for them to be treated and reintegrated into their community.”

    Reintegration includes regular meetings by WHI staff with the children and their parents – ongoing monitoring to make sure they haven’t fallen victim to traffickers again – and possible jobs.

    The U.S. State Department recently upgraded Sierra Leone’s status in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. Lyons says it’s an indication that WHI programs and similar efforts are having a positive effect.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.