Coronavirus in Confinement
March 26th, 2020
The Other Side of the Pandemic
With the declaration of the global coronavirus pandemic, our daily lives have changed dramatically. Borders are closed, flights are canceled, supermarket shelves are empty, and recommendations are that we show sympathy to our loved ones, especially to the elderly. But what about the ones who are vulnerable, yet invisible, because they live in captivity? We’re talking about all those women, men, girls and boys trapped in a ruthless human trafficking chain. How will they cope with coronavirus if they get infected? Many of them are already suffering from various health issues, while medical care, healthy food and medicines are a luxury for them. Perhaps the real question is whether many of them will survive this dangerous pandemic at all.
Trafficking victims are unable to take the necessary precautions against this disease, as they spend their lives in confinement. They are unable to move freely, and their access to information and current events may be completely restricted so they may not even know what is happening in the world and that the efforts of most countries are now directed at combating this pandemic. They eat, sleep and live in oftentimes cramped quarters without the ability to take care of personal hygiene. They may have no heating, water, electricity, and many may be confined together in a groups in one small space. This means they are very exposed, since the coronavirus is best known for its rapid transmission.
Not knowing they are in danger, exploitation victims are often forced into illegal activities they would never choose. While the number of coronavirus disease patients in the world is increasing, trafficking victims may still have contact with new people, which puts them in great risk of getting infected. Who will prevent the infection of women forced into sexual exploitation or of men working in extreme, inhumane conditions? The traffickers? The plantation or factories owners who profit from their forced labor? We think the answer is clear–None of them.
The coronavirus is affecting every aspect of our lives, even the economy, since the world markets are experiencing a decrease of over 20 percent. Many global industries are currently suffering severe financial shocks due to the pandemic declaration. Ruthless traffickers around the world fear for their highly lucrative, criminal business. International Labor Organization estimates that criminals make a total of US $150 billion a year from trafficking. In order to achieve those huge numbers, traffickers are exploiting their victims now more than ever. They are living on the sidelines and working in harsh conditions, without any social distancing or opportunities to remain safe.
It is important to emphasize the vulnerability of this group of people, since most of them already suffer from poor health and exposure to disease: AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, cardiovascular and respiratory issues, tuberculosis, etc. It is these chronic patients who are most at risk of contracting the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. Although we are able to closely monitor the number of coronavirus victims through the media, we won’t know if a trafficking victim gets infected or dies, as their lives are lived in the shadows and not observed by health officials or the media. Coronavirus has caused the pandemic that has plagued the entire world in 2020, and only with responsible behavior can we help ourselves and others. However, in the swirl of pandemic information, let’s not forget the horrors that surround us every day. New trafficking victims appear daily and they are also someone’s child, mother, father, grandmother and friend.
This state of social distancing and shelter-in-place will pass for each of us at some point, no matter how terrifying it may seem in the present. On the other hand, the isolation of a trafficking victim will last for years, decades, or even a lifetime. During these uncertain times, while most of us are retreating and staying at home, they are trapped in the hands of traffickers. Because of that, we are sharing an important request, with the attention of saving lives: if you suspect anyone in your community is being exploited or held in slavery, we encourage you to contact the phone number listed below and report this illegal, cruel activity.
By: Ana Krstajic, UNITAS Global Ambassador
We encourage you to call for help if you suspect someone in your community is being exploited or held in slavery:
USA +1 888 373 7888
European number for missing children +116 000
Serbia – SOS number +381 11 785 0000
Eastern Europe regional information: www.HopeOn.Today