Last week's tsunami and earthquake in Japan wrought immeasurable damage, devastating families, livelihoods, and support structures, and displacing thousands of survivors from their homes. While Japan confronts this immense tragedy, relief agencies and advocates worldwide must ensure that disaster victims are not made victims once more by those who would exploit their vulnerability for profit. As witnessed in the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake last year, human trafficking can thrive amid destruction. In Haiti and elsewhere, traffickers prey upon homeless and orphaned children, among others, shrouding forced labor and sexual slavery in promises of much-needed safety, food, and shelter.
While natural disasters sadly may be an inevitable part of the world's future, the victimization of disaster victims by traffickers surely need not be.