By Vincent Lyn

Trafficking of children is a form of human trafficking and is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and/or receipt” kidnapping of a child for the purpose of slavery, forced labor and exploitation.This definition is substantially wider than the same document’s definition of “trafficking in persons”. Children may also be trafficked for the purpose of adoption.

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include extreme poverty, recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and play on their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.

Whether it is the trafficking of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the sexual enslavement of women and girls in the United States, or the forced labor of sub-Saharan Africans or refugees from the Middle East, desperate families and individuals often feel they have little choice but to risk exploitation in an effort to survive.

An estimated 10 million children today are exploited in forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, child marriage and child trafficking. Exact numbers of trafficked children are hard to determine, since child trafficking is mostly hidden and victims are often fearful of coming forward. It is happening right in our own backyards. Child trafficking happens in the United States and was reported annually in every U.S. state in 2018. Every year 300,000 children are taken from all around the world and sold by human traffickers as slaves. 28% of the 17,000 people brought to the United States are children — about 13 children per day. In 2014, research conducted by the anti-human trafficking organization Thorn reported that internet sites like Craigslist are often used as tools for conducting business within the industry and that 70 percent of child sex trafficking survivors surveyed were at some point sold online.

Causes of Child Trafficking

Scholarly research has indicated that there is no root cause for child trafficking. There are, however, multiple reasons which contribute to high numbers such as poverty, humanitarian crisis and lack of education. It is additionally important to note that migration can also be voluntary.


Poverty is the leading cause for child trafficking worldwide. Often parents are not able to provide for their families and consequentially exploit their children for financial reasons. These influencers lead to children being more inclined to take riskier jobs in order to sustain life for themselves and their families. The decision for parents to expose their children for child trafficking, due to poverty, is not always for money incentives, but also because a lack of education causes them to believe that migration elsewhere will provide their children with more opportunities, which will help them escape chronic poverty. Sometimes children are orphaned as a result of poverty, leaving them in the hands of child traffickers. There are estimated to be around 120 million children living on the streets in the world (30 million in Africa, 30 million in Asia, and 60 million in South America), making children vulnerable and thus easy targets.

Humanitarian Crisis

Child trafficking is 20–30% higher after natural disasters. This was seen after the 2015 earthquake and 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The increase of sex trafficking after natural disasters results in the victimization of girls under the age of 18, specifically 33% of girls under the age of 18 in such areas. The reason is increased vulnerability and financial instability which arises after natural disasters hit.

Lack of Education

A lack of education and literacy furthermore makes families more vulnerable to traffickers. Parents are often unaware of the negative consequences of child trafficking and voluntarily send their children away. Additionally, children are often not aware of their rights and lack understanding regarding which of their rights are violated. There is a need to educate children of their rights, because it will reduce the likelihood of manipulation and forced industry work. Informing children of their right to education will increase the net enrollment and grade completion rate.

Voluntary Migration

In 2013 youth migrants, ages 15–24 made up 12% of total migration. The term “child trafficking” is often misused when migration is voluntary. “Youth migration” refers to youth choosing to leave homes to access opportunities elsewhere. Opportunities such as quality education, employment, and adventure are often scarce in rural areas, which is why migration often occurs from rural to urban areas. More than 27 million young people leave their countries of birth to seek employment abroad as international migrants. In order to make migration safer for youth the U.N adopted “Addressing migration opportunities and challenges is central to achieving sustainable economic and social development” to their new development goals, which are to be released in 2030.

According to UNICEF every two minutes a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation. 1.2 million children alone are being trafficked every year. This number excluded the millions already being held captive by trafficking. UNICEF also reports that approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years. People are trafficked from 127 countries and are exploited in 137 countries according to the United Nations. Every year, 20,000 Nepali girls are trafficked and often sent to work as prostitutes in brothels in India or as domestic servants in the Middle East. Some of these girls are as young as nine and even sadder, “many of these girls end up contracting HIV within two years and many of them die before they reach 20. Although most people associate the term human trafficking with countries other than the United States like Romania, China, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Thailand, Mexico and Nigeria, there have been approximately 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the United States since 2001.

America holds the title of “second highest destination in the world for trafficked women” (Wiehl, 2010). Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are trafficked into the USA each year. In most cases the average age of the prostitute or exploited victim is between 12 and 13 years old. A study from the University of Pennsylvania estimated that nearly 300,000 youth were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses and many of them who are forced into performing sexual acts by their pimps are as young as 5 and 6 years of age. Sex traffickers tend to recruit children because they are not only more unsuspecting than adults, but there is also a high demand for young victims.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 50,000 people are trafficked into or transited through the United States annually as sex slaves, domestics, garment, and agricultural slaves (Human Trafficking, 2010). Some trafficking victims, responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the United States, migrate willingly — legally and illegally — and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude or debt bondage at work sites or in commercial sex.

While no demographic is immune to trafficking, victims of trafficking were found to share similar life experiences such as:

  • 57% had been sexually abused as children.
  • 49% had been physically assaulted.
  • 85% were victims of incest as girls, and 90% had been physically abused.
  • 61.5% were frequently hit, slapped, pushed, or had objects thrown at them by a member of their household.
  • 40% of the above were kicked, hit, beaten, raped, or threatened and/or attacked with a weapon by a member of their household.

It is estimated that a child is trafficked around the world every 26 seconds. Some experts believe that 80 percent of all trafficked children face sexual exploitation and 19 percent are forced into labor.

My goal is to prevent trafficking from occurring by lifting children out of extreme poverty and getting them off of the streets. These children are extremely vulnerable to falling victim to false promises of food and shelter, education, and work. Since only 1% of those trafficked are ever rescued, prevention is my priority.

Vincent Lyn

CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children

Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization

Economic & Social Council at United Nations

Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts



CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)

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Vincent Lyn

CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)