It has been one year since the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is a global pandemic. The worldwide health and economic crises have made modern slavery worse. As livelihoods have been disrupted, people have taken loans that will trap them in debt bondage slavery. Children are being forced to work to support their families. Migration will surge when international travel resumes, and many migrants will be tricked by traffickers posing as legitimate labor recruiters.
I would like to take a moment on today’s anniversary to report some examples of the many ways that Free the Slaves programs have adapted to the COVID-19 challenge over the past year.
- Humanitarian Relief: Our Dominican Republic team has delivered food parcels and sanitation kits to impoverished communities that aren’t being reached by government assistance.
- Public Health Precautions: Our Haiti team has employed slavery survivors to sew masks and assemble personal protective equipment kits for distribution to remote slavery hot-spot villages.
- Economic Lifelines: Our Ghana team has helped communities sustain operations of their village savings and loan programs, providing economic resilience to assist vulnerable families.
- Front-line Research: Our Senegal and Kenya teams have been conducting in-depth documentation of the pandemic’s impact, to shape future anti-trafficking programs to help communities cope with current and ongoing challenges.
- Digital Engagement: Our India team has gone online to ensure that our vital programs to train public officials and anti-trafficking activists are able to continue. We’ve begun a special program to train people on safe ways to migrate for work.
The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups — the very groups most vulnerable to modern slavery. We can envision the end of the crisis in the U.S., but COVID-19’s toll in slavery hot-spots will last many years.
Free the Slaves will continue to innovate, and we continue our dedication to ending the conditions that allow modern slavery to exist, including the pandemic.
Thank you for your continued support of Free the Slaves and the communities we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.