University of Georgia to host virtual launch of anti-trafficking program in Sierra Leone

The University of Georgia (UGA), the U.S. Department of State, and World Hope International will co-host a virtual Sierra Leone Child Anti-Trafficking Program Launch Event on Tuesday, March 2nd at 2 pm. This free virtual launch event will detail the results of groundbreaking child trafficking research and a new, impactful program for child trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone.

The forum is presented by the African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, and World Hope International. The Honorable Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, is the keynote speaker.

The program launch marks an important step towards justice for child trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone. APRIES’ research, conducted in close partnership with Conflict Management & Development Associates (CMDA) in Sierra Leone, finds that children suffering from different forms of trafficking and exploitation in Sierra Leone are trapped in their situations with little prospect of help or intervention.

In addition, a household survey conducted by APRIES and CMDA showed a number of children had been trafficked in the three study regions of Kenema, Kono, and Kailahun.

World Hope International (WHI) operates the only dedicated shelter for trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone. With this new program, WHI will expand its services and advocacy for child survivors in three essential areas: prosecution of perpetrators, protection of survivors, and prevention of future trafficking.

WHI will work in close collaboration with the Ministries of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Justice and Local Government and Rural Development.

The Government of Sierra Leone has accomplished invaluable work in the fight against human trafficking within its borders. Trafficking survivors are gaining access to justice due to the tireless efforts of multiple ministries and individuals.

APRIES enthusiastically welcomes government advocates for trafficking survivors to this exciting launch event.

“Our research shows great need for anti-trafficking programs and policies that support survivors and reduce the risks, drivers, and facilitators of trafficking at the community level. These programs should be locally appropriate, sustainable, responsive, and survivor-centered,” said Dr. David Okech, Director of APRIES and Professor at the UGA School of Social Work.

“The fight to end trafficking in persons requires collaboration and partnership between governments and civil society,” stated U. S Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elaine M. French.  “The APRIES program represents an important step towards understanding and preventing child trafficking in Sierra Leone, while supporting survivors and addressing the root causes.”

The launch is part of a $4 million grant to UGA through the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Program to End Modern Slavery to measure the prevalence of child trafficking and implement anti-trafficking programs in hotspot regions of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

APRIES staff Dr. Claire Bolton, Program Manager for Sierra Leone and Umaru Fofanah, In-Country Coordinator for Sierra Leone coordinated the launch event. Other planning committee members included Dr. David Okech, Director of APRIES; Bernadette Udo, Program Manager at World Hope International; and Dr. Rebecca Poon, MERL Coordinator, APRIES.

Sierra Leone Telegraph 28 February 2021