Traffickers found targeting more children as COVID-19 school closures fuel danger

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.