How COVID-19 Puts Children at Greater Risk of Trafficking and Child Marriage

We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of this virus could be devastating for many months.

The impact will be even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.

For us, the grocery stores remain open and the supply chain is functioning. Not so in the developing world. Imagine if your only source of income and food was a market where you could sell a goat or other livestock to pay for necessities like food, water, and medicine. Now the government has had to close that market in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

“People are not scared of the virus, they’re scared of not having food,” explained one World Concern program manager.

Families who live in countries on lockdown can’t leave their home to work, or sell goods for income.

Now imagine you’re in this situation and you hear of a way to earn money in a city across the border. Someone told you there are jobs there. Your teenage daughter is healthy and strong and can make the journey. So you let her go… not knowing she’ll be sold as a slave into the sex industry.

Or, imagine a wealthier family offers to take your little girl into their home and pay for her living expenses if she’ll marry their son.

People who are hungry will do desperate things.

A crisis like this one that destroys already fragile economies and infrastructures puts those who are vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, child marriage, abuse and exploitation, at even greater risk.

World Concern’s model of community empowerment is effective in a crisis like this, as we’re able to incorporate COVID-19 messages and hygiene promotion within our community-based programs, such as care groups, nutrition programs, savings groups, and child protection programs.

Our long-term village development work is also proving to be vital in sustaining families and communities during this unique crisis. As families have learned to diversify their livelihoods and sources of income in preparation for crises, and to grow their own vegetables and sustainable crops, they are better able to survive.

Families learn to grow their own vegetables in South Sudan.

Parents who have received vital training and information on the dangers of trafficking and the harmful effects of child marriage are able to lean on that knowledge now more than ever, and avoid these risks, even in desperate times like this.

All the work that has been done—and is being done—in remote villages, crowded urban slums, and hard places beyond the end of the road, with the help of our supporters, is proving powerful and effective through crisis.

If you’re interested in helping protect the most vulnerable girls and boys from the increased danger they now face with COVID-19 and economic impacts in their communities, consider walking or running on May 9 in the 2020 Virtual Free Them 5k to stop child trafficking. Sign up here: www.freethem5k.org

Snapshots of 2019

World Concern snapshots of 2019 could fill a book. You gave so much, and we are so thankful for you! Enjoy these photos that show a few of the many ways you transformed the lives of children, women, and men who live in poverty beyond the end of the road.

You gave emergency nutrition to 28,901 malnourished children

Emergency nutrition screening in Northern Kenya.
Your gift provided emergency nutrition to babies like this little boy.

You protected 82,157 children and teens from trafficking and child marriage

girl in shadows
May (name changed for protection) was kidnapped from her village at age 14 and trafficked. Your gift helped rescue her and bring her home again.

You empowered parents to feed their children and earn more income

a woman with plants
You gave seeds to women in South Sudan, and their harvest is overflowing!
woman frying fish in South Sudan
Your gifts launched a fisheries training project in South Sudan that provided families with a sustainable food supply and ways to earn an income.

You empowered women through savings groups and business training

a group of women learning about business
Your gift provided business training and an opportunities to save money for women in Nepal.

You enabled children in remote villages to attend school

children in school
Children have books and supplies for school because you gave.

You added 22 One Village Transformed communities and helped 8 villages graduate from our program

Maramara
The village of Maramara and many other communities are thriving because of you!

You helped young Rohingya refugees prepare for a bright future

girls sewing
Young women are learning skills in tailoring, a marketable skill!

Your gifts resulted in 8,717 lives being reconciled to Christ

people reading a Bible
You brought Bibles to men and women who have never read the Word of God before!

Honoring our friend and country director of Bangladesh

Prodip Dowa
After 25 years of service in the country of Bangladesh, our beloved country director Prodip went home to be with the Lord this fall. We miss him greatly.

We want to thank you for giving generously this year! Because of you, practical needs were met for families, and that was life changing. Meeting those needs opened the hearts of men, women and children to hear about the love of Christ and receive His grace. That transformed everything for them—both now, and for eternity.

Nobody Thought He Could Learn, But Look At Him Now!

Shiphon with his mother who dreamed he could have an education in Bangladesh.
Shiphon (right) lives with his parents in Hindu Para Village.

Seven-year-old Shiphon is growing up in Hindu Para, Bangladesh. He lives with his parents and sister. His father is a rickshaw driver, and there is no extra money to pay for Shiphon to have an education in Bangladesh where admission to school is often two months wages.

But, in reality, Shiphon’s family never planned for him to go to school anyway. You see, Shiphon is mute. He’s never talked, and no one is sure if he ever will. And special education in Bangladesh is far away from his community.

When Hindu Para Village began to collaborate with World Concern in our One Village Transformed program, we helped them open a preschool in the village. Soon Shiphon’s sister began to attend.

Shiphon saw his sister learning and making friends, and soon he started following her to school. He sat amongst the students and listened eagerly to the teacher. Soon enough, Shiphon was there every day, ready to work.

Shiphon and his teacher who is dedicated to giving children an education in Bangladesh.
Shiphon and his teacher.

“At the beginning, he struggled,” explained Shipon’s teacher. “But now, he has opened up and in some cases is even doing better than the other students.”

Though Shiphon is mute, he manages to write everything down to communicate. He doesn’t speak, but he never fails to express himself.

“Shiphon is the first one to arrive to school,” Shiphon’s teacher shared about him. “I love and admire him because of his dedication to his studies. This determination is his strength, and it overcomes his weakness.”

His determination is also making an impact at home. Shiphon’s mother, Runa, has always dreamed of educating her son, and now it is a reality.

“I would try heart and soul to prepare Shiphon to further his education,” Yeasmin said. “This preschool stands out from other preschools and always supports him.”

For the first time in years, Runa sees a new future for her son.

“I am very grateful to you,” Runa said to World Concern OVT donors. “You value education, and I thank you for supporting Shiphon in his schooling.”

And there’s more good news

Runa also joined one of the savings groups OVT brought to Hindu Para. She started saving money, and her goal is to send Shiphon and his sister to school as they get older. In short, she’s working toward transforming their futures for good!

Shiphon and his sister are just two of over 200 students enrolled in the OVT preschools in this area of Bangladesh.

And the savings group his mother joined? There are 20 others just like it, with members who are learning, growing, and saving to create new opportunities for themselves and their families.

Written by Heather Nelson.