Human traffickers worldwide are increasingly targeting children and will likely exploit school closures during the coronavirus pandemic to abuse the young, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Children make up a third of trafficking victims who are uncovered – a share that has tripled in the past 15 years, with girls mainly exploited for sex and boys forced into work, a report by the U.N. Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found.
About 49,000 victims were detected and reported in total in 2018 – up from 24,000 in 2016 – according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which was based on research conducted before the start of the pandemic.
While worsening poverty and job losses spurred by COVID-19 have left millions of people globally at risk of trafficking, out-of-school children are especially vulnerable, UNODC said.
About 222 million schoolchildren – one in eight pupils – are affected by school closures, according to UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency. The figure hit 1.6 billion in April last year.
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