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Wednesday December 4, 2013
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Republican congressman Chris Smith said women, children, the elderly, and those with special needs were the most vulnerable and always fared worst during disasters. — Reuters picRepublican congressman Chris Smith said women, children, the elderly, and those with special needs were the most vulnerable and always fared worst during disasters. — Reuters picWASHINGTON, Dec 4 — Thousands of women and children in the Philippines risk falling prey to human traffickers in the aftermath of last month’s catastrophic typhoon, lawmakers and the chief US aid agency warned yesterday.

A US congressman returning from a visit to the storm-ravaged island nation said that while Filipino authorities and US forces were helping vast numbers of storm victims, more attention was needed to thwart criminal opportunists taking advantage of the chaos after Super-typhoon Haiyan roared ashore.

“The most vulnerable — women, children, the elderly, and those with special needs — always fare worst during disasters,” Republican congressman Chris Smith, who led the three-member delegation to the disaster zone last week, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

At particular risk of sex trafficking are vulnerable people “who over a longer period of time may have lost some hope,” said Smith.

Such persons in the Philippines, many among the thousands transported out of the disaster zone to cities like the capital Manila, could fall victim to offers of work in Saudi Arabia or Korea, Smith said, only to find themselves with “an engraved invitation to a hell on Earth.”

Washington considers the Philippines as not in full compliance with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking. The State Department’s 2013 trafficking report describes it as a source country for sex-trafficking and forced labour, and that “child sex tourism remained a serious problem” there.

In the Gallery


  • Super Typhoon Haiyan is seen approaching the Philippines in this Japan Meteorological Agency handout image taken at 0630 GMT (0130 EST) November 7, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines in this weather satellite image, courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency, taken at 0200 UTC November 8, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Red Cross volunteers and staff prepare sandbags in Cam Le district, Da Nang, ahead of Typhoon Haiyan's expected landfall November 9, 2013, in this handout photo provided by VNRC. — Reuters pic

  • Red Cross volunteers and staff place sandbags on houses in Hoa Hai ward, Ngu Hanh Son district, Da Nang, ahead of Typhoon Haiyan's expected landfall November 9, 2013, in this handout photo provided by VNRC. — Reuters pic

  • People cross a street against strong wind and heavy rainfall under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Sanya, Hainan province November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • People ride against rain and wind under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Qionghai, south China's Hainan province, November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A wave surges under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Haikou, south China's Hainan province, November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • An aerial view shows damaged structures as residents unload relief goods from a helicopter after Typhoon Haiyan hit a village in Panay island in northern Iloilo Province, central Philippines November 9, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk on a road amidst heavy downpour after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Thousands of homes are destroyed after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A boy who was wounded by flying debris due to Super Typhoon Haiyan stays at the ruins of his family's house in Tacloban city November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk among debris of thousands of homes destroyed after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk under a fallen electric post after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents seek refuge inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Children play under the statues of saints inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents hang a sign asking for a help in front of a catholic church after strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors take baths and wash their clothes with water from an open faucet after strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A pregnant woman cooks a meal inside a building overlooking destroyed houses after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Typhoon victims queue for food and water outside an airport after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Devastated houses float on sea water after super typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A boy fills up a plastic bottle with water after super typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents rest under a cargo ship that was washed ashore four days after super typhoon Haiyan hit Anibong town, Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Marines secure gear onto a pallet during preparations for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission to the Philippines at the US Futenma airbase in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, November 10, 2013 in this handout provided by US Marine Corps. — Reuters pic

  • Marines board a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at the US Futenma airbase in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, November 10, 2013. A team of about 90 US Marines and sailors headed to the Philippines as part of the first wave of promised US military assistance for relief efforts, US officials said. — Reuters pic

  • A policeman stands guard as workers remove fallen trees in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A man checks a fallen television tower in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A man walks near a globe damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A worker loads World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods inside the aircraft near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 11, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

  • A worker stands near World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 10, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

  • A worker arranges World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 10, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

The US Agency for International Development, which for years has worked with the government of the Philippines to reduce human trafficking, also sounded the alarm at the hearing.

“We are watching this very closely,” Nancy Lindborg, the USAID’s assistant administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, testified.

“To protect the children of the central Philippines during this time of heightened vulnerability, the government of the Philippines and the international community will need to make every effort... to ensure and strengthen local and national protective services.”

That includes creation of safe spaces for women and children, and programs that help identify, trace and reunify unaccompanied children, she said.

Washington has committed nearly US$60 million (RM193 million) worth of typhoon-related aid to the Philippines, Lindborg said.

More than 7,400 people died or remain missing in the aftermath of Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons on record. — AFP

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