Risk Factors for Child Trafficking Victims


What makes a child vulnerable to human trafficking? Although there is no standard profile for a trafficking victim, several risk factors make certain children more susceptible.

People often assume that poverty and poor education are the biggest contributors, but research is proving otherwise. One recent study in Asia found that higher education among girls in Northern Thailand actually increased the risk of trafficking.1 It appears that the high opportunity cost of additional years at school increased pressure on girls to earn good money and social status, leading to risky migration and trafficking to Bangkok, Malaysia and Japan.

The standard prevention strategy – poverty relief coupled with raised awareness – isn’t cutting it. These communities need a more customised and complex solution.

There have been many other studies throughout the developing world which indicate that poverty, low education, and a lack of awareness about trafficking are not necessarily the key contributing factors to a child’s vulnerability.2 Many vulnerable communities are saturated with knowledge about the risks of human trafficking (from the work of NGOs, UN programmes, and government agencies) yet thousands still disappear from these areas each year.3 

The standard prevention strategy – poverty relief coupled with raised awareness – isn’t cutting it. These communities need a more customised and complex solution. Forming an effective prevention strategy requires an intimate understanding of local vulnerability factors, and the ability to stay up to date as these factors change and to modify programme strategies accordingly.

This poses a question for Hope Street Uganda: What are the current risk factors for child trafficking in our region? To form a verified answer, we have been working with the community to collate profiles of local trafficking cases. Below is a summary of our preliminary findings:

Risk Factors for Child Trafficking Victims in Arua, Uganda (In Order of Prevalence):

  1. Lack of personal safety
    • Homelessness
    • Commuting after sunset
    • Commuting without guardians
    • Social isolation
  2. Active prostitution
  3. Financial desperation
    • Hunger, malnourishment
    • Personal debt
    • Poverty
    • Chronically unwell family members
    • Family debt
  4. Desperation to emigrate
    • Family dysfunction or conflict
    • Emotional distress
    • Fanciful views of distant regions/countries
    • Stigma or discrimination
    • Mental illness
    • Lack of social/community support
  5. Limited knowledge of human trafficking risks
  6. Impaired cognitive reasoning
    • Active substance abuse
    • Impaired cognitive skills
    • Intellectual disability

Ultimately, it is important to remember that human trafficking is not caused by these or any other risk factors. It is caused by human traffickers committing criminal acts in a gross abuse of human rights. While Hope Street is working to protect local communities, other organizations are doing a great job of prosecuting criminals rings.4

To be notified when our full research findings are published, please email info@hopestreet.org or sign up below for our monthly newsletters.

1 The Behavioral Ecology of Child Labor and Prostitution in Rural Northern Thailand, Lisa Rende Taylor. www.childtrafficking.com/Docs/taylor_250806.pdf
2 Current Anthropology Volume 48.
3 UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014.
4 www.nvader.org

Share this story