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State Department targets more funds to fight child trafficking in Haiti

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
The U.S. State Department is increasing funds available to combat child trafficking in Haiti, where children are at risk.
The U.S. State Department is increasing funds available to combat child trafficking in Haiti, where children are at risk.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Before the earthquake, the U.S. provided $500,000 for to protect Haitian children from trafficking
  • UNICEF has anecdotal evidence about the trafficking of Haitian children
  • The International Labour Organization reports 12.3 million people are 'laboring in bondage'

Washington (CNN) -- The United States has committed an additional million dollars to fight child trafficking in Haiti in the wake of last month's earthquake, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Word of the action came as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired the Obama administration's first meeting of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Clinton, speaking in the meeting, called trafficking in people "one of the most important human rights issues we deal with." Yearly meetings of the task force were mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed 10 years ago.

Before the earthquake, the United States provided $500,000 for programs to protect children in Haiti from trafficking. The additional million is being shifted from other programs, officials said.

Video: Accused of trafficking
Video: Traffickers or missionaries?
Video: Haiti's orphan limbo
RELATED TOPICS
  • Haiti
  • Human Trafficking
  • UNICEF

In a briefing at the State Department, Ambassador Louis CdeBaca of the department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons told reporters that traffickers take advantage of vulnerabilities resulting from race, class, migratory status and displacement from natural disasters.

On Haiti, he said, "we are hearing anecdotal evidence from UNICEF" about trafficking of children but there are no firm figures on it.

"We are hearing about men coming into the camps offering food and water to girls to come with them in trucks," he said, adding that "we don't have hard evidence" on this.

Before the earthquake, he said, there were 300,000 "restaveks," children given up by their families for domestic servitude, in Haiti. Another 3,000 were estimated to have been taken to the Dominican Republic.

He added that according to estimates by the International Labour Organization, 12.3 million people worldwide are "laboring in bondage." Other estimates, he said, put that number at 27 million, although there is no independent confirmation.

More than half of them, as much as 60 percent, are females, he said. Nine million to 10 million are forced laborers, and 2 million to 3 million are in sexual slavery, he added.

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