Child trafficking victims often suffer from myriad health conditions both physical and psychological. These conditions are a consequence of their being subjected to inhumane treatment, sleeping in squalid conditions that do not allow for good personal hygiene, poor sanitation, brutal physical and emotional attacks from their captors, hazardous working conditions and lack of access to health care resources and services. Because of lack of access to preventive health care, most of these children have undetected or asymptomatic health problems that keep on festering until they become life-threatening. Often times, at this stage, whatever health care needs the child might have, are addressed by unqualified individuals who happen to be the trafficker’s sympathizers or friends. There is very little concern about restoring the patient to full health, only a band-aiding of the condition so that they can return to their indentured labor as soon as possible. These children are treated as disposable items.

Some specific health problems that plague this population group include sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and others, rectal trauma, urinary tract infections, and pelvic pain often contracted from multiple sexual relations with their captors and their cronies. Other health conditions needing health services among this population group are pregnancies that are usually the outcome of rape or forced prostitution. In most cases, these children are forced to have abortions in non-clinical settings by unqualified individuals. Even after undergoing such traumatic experiences, still have no prospect of follow-up by a qualified health professional to address their emotional and physical needs. It is no uncommon for these children to suffer from chronic back problems, hearing and respiratory infections due to endless toiling without proper rest in dangerous work environments. Children who are forced to work in dimly lit workshops for a protracted period of time develop eye problems. They also develop tuberculosis due to living in unsanitary, crowded conditions. Food scarcity inevitably leads to malnutrition and increased susceptibility to disease. These children often bear both visible and invisible scars from being tortured and abused by traffickers. Sometimes they are forced into the drug-trafficking trade and might even become users themselves to numb the pain associated with their existence. The Department of Health and Human Services-USA appeals to anyone who might have come into contact with a child who could be a victim of child trafficking to call this national human trafficking hotline: 1.888-373-7888.

Now, obviously, not every family will experience this harrowing catastrophe, but the fact is, as long as some human beings are being enslaved in this manner, we are all being enslaved in one way or another. This practice is an affront to the entire human race; it threatens to deface the image of God and to take away from the inherent intrinsic value we all carry. We might not all be called to go and actively hunt for and free these children and that’s not the reason for writing this article. But we can pray for those called to do this difficult work such as the CNN hero of 2010, Anuradha Koirala and her organization, the Maiti Nepal, who has committed her life to saving thousands of children from sex slavery. We can also make financial donations to related, legitimate programs where possible. We need to search our hearts and see how we feel about this.

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