Human Trafficking and Natural Disasters: Exploiting Misery

By Joshua Finn


In the past few decades, governments and international organizations have begun to more seriously address the problem of human trafficking. It is generally believed that the aftermath of war and major economic transitions (e.g. the collapse of the Soviet Union), are situations where traffickers can easily exploit the hopeless state of victims. Natural disasters such as major earthquakes and tsunamis, are other situations that create uncertainty and hardship for many. This paper explores the possible link between human trafficking and natural disasters, using the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan of 2013 as case studies. It argues that natural disasters exacerbate the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty and lack of viable livelihoods. The added shock of a natural disaster to an already vulnerable population can lead to an environment where human traffickers are more likely to be profitable. Among other recommendations, this paper emphasizes the need to secure greater engagement of local stakeholders and provide increased access to safe spaces following a disaster.

About the Author:

Joshua Finn is from Ottawa, Canada and earned his M.A. in Global Communication at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Josh earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carleton University and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Ottawa. He previously worked as a policy analyst at the Canadian Department of Transportation.

Photo taken by Iowa Yoder.

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