Shelter schools: safe spaces for children
Armed conflicts and natural disasters devastate communities, especially affecting children who have been forcibly displaced and are often victims of human trafficking. As well as a place of learning, shelter schools have become a safe space for vulnerable children.
Just a week ago Europol announced that in a joint global operation with Frontex and Interpol against human trafficking, it had arrested 212 people after identifying 1,426 victims in 44 countries. The coordinated actions of the three international agencies aimed not only to identify but also to protect and refer victims to social services.
The agency warned that children and women are the primary victims of these criminal organisations operating in several countries connected through large networks: “Human traffickers target the most vulnerable groups, including children. Children are trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation”.
This global scourge requires a strong and coordinated response from the international community. Even so, limited access to conflict-affected territories or geopolitical interests means that it is often non-governmental organisations or non-profit humanitarian foundations that are the most proactive in undertaking initiatives to assist those affected.
Human trafficking in north-west Syria
The combination of the protracted humanitarian crisis initially caused by the armed conflict, together with the effects of the pandemic and the recent earthquakes emerge as a set of conditions that have exacerbated the risk of gender-based violence and human trafficking among the Syrian population in the north-west of the country, a territory still controlled by various factions of the Islamic State (ISIS).
The situation is alarming and desperate, especially for children in refugee camps trying to get back to ‘normal’. UNICEF put the number of children displaced by the earthquakes at 850,000, while according to a study by Save the Children, children represent one in five deaths and suicide attempts recorded in refugee camps in northern Syria.
International humanitarian organisations alert that Syrian refugee children are particularly exposed to sex trafficking and forced labour in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, the high number of child marriages of Syrian girls among the population inside Islamist-controlled territories worsens their vulnerability to trafficking.
Shelter schools that empower the community
Access to education plays a critical role in reducing the risk of gender-based violence against children affected by armed conflict and in preventing human trafficking. Shelter schools such as those run by the Better Shelter Foundation, with which 11Onze Rolls Up its Sleeves has established a partnership, are an essential tool to provide safe spaces where children and women can access quality education, free from prejudice and discrimination.
The complexity and variety of the phenomenon of child trafficking mean that there can be no single formula to solve the problem, but acting directly on the ground by providing the necessary tools and a safe place for children and their families to regain a semblance of the lost normality is a first step that someone had to take.
The ultimate goal of this 11Onze Rolls Up its Sleeves initiative is to create 50 shelter schools with funding of €100,000, to help 1,750 displaced children. Let’s roll up our sleeves and come together to support this project. Someone has to do it. Will you roll up your sleeves?
11Onze Rolls Up its Sleeves is 11Onze’s service to help people all over the world.
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