•Labour CS Chelugui says Covid-19 measures have increased poverty and hindered efforts to curb human trafficking
•Children are increasingly exposed to sexual and child trafficking through social media.
The government has acknowledged that Covid-19 measures imposed by the Ministry of Health are exposing many Kenyans to human trafficking.
Labour CS Simon Chelugui said the restrictions have increased poverty and hampered efforts to curb human trafficking both internally and internationally.
“Some of these measures have led to limited access to services as most victim assistance programmes have scaled down operations. Identification of victims, which is difficult under normal circumstances, has become even harder in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Chelugui said during a webinar on the World Anti-Human Trafficking Day.
The CS warned that many children were increasingly exposed to sexual exploitation and child trafficking through social media.
“Further, the increase in online activities especially among young people has increased their vulnerability to online recruitment," the CS said.
He revealed that the Child Protection Information Management System has thus far recorded 612 cases of child labour since July 2019.
The CS’s sentiments were echoed by the Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART), which noted that survivors of human trafficking were currently vulnerable to re-trafficking.
“The pandemic has had an impact on the victims who had already finished the support programmes at HAART as well as victims who are currently in the process of healing. Many of them are vulnerable to trafficking as day labourers, domestic workers and sex workers,” Sophia Otiende, a HAART board member, said at a press conference at Alliance Francaise.
The organisation is currently supporting 100 survivors of human trafficking and is worried that it could be overwhelmed due to the cash crunch created by Covid-19.
“Even most of us who have jobs do not know how sustainable the jobs are. HAART is going to need help to ensure that HAART’s victims can stay safe during the pandemic and meet their basic needs of food, rent and soap,” Otiende said.
Otiende, herself a survivor of human trafficking, said many Kenyans do not know how to identify a victim of the crime and as such it continues unabated within the country.
Although Kenya has made strides towards curbing human trafficking, the US Department of State reports that the country could do better to eliminate the vice.
It is a source, destination and transit point for human trafficking with sexual and labour exploitation the most prevalent reasons for human trafficking in the country.
Edited by Henry Makori