World Hope International (WHI), a Christian relief and development organization working with vulnerable and exploited communities in Liberia, has embraced government’s decision to establish an anti-human trafficking hotline, committing itself to support and maintain the project.
The anti-human trafficking hotline number 2883 in all existing mobile phone companies in the country was recently launched by the Ministry of Labor for the purpose of reporting suspected trafficking cases.
According to a WHI statement, the hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is expected to be extended to 24 hours a day, the statement said.
The hotline is free of charge and is handled confidentially so that callers’ and victims’ identities are well protected.
It is a part of a broader initiative aimed at enhancing victims’ protection and supporting the establishment of a National Referral Pathway (NRP) in Liberia.
The NRP, when finalized, will provide consistent support for victims of trafficking throughout the country.
It was developed in partnership with the Liberian government and civil society organizations coordinated by WHI.
Once the Ministry of Justice provides approval and the NRP is finalized, it will help communities, CSOs, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and government officials to assist victims of trafficking by laying out the steps that would identify and protect victims as well as the roles and responsibilities of the assistance actors.
While awaiting the NRP document to be finalized, WHI is currently in the process of providing short-term emergency shelter, holistic case management, and reintegration assistance to the labor and sex trafficked victims.
NRP is also engaged in raising awareness through call-in radio shows and preaching anti-trafficking messages on some local radio stations.
Meanwhile, Patrick Mbayo, an official of the Ministry of Labor, has disclosed that annually over 20 million persons become victims of trafficking worldwide.
Mr. Mbayo said Liberia being one of many countries of origin, transit, and destination for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, is contributing to “global gangsters.”
He attributed the increase in trafficking in Liberia to lack of information, suggesting that curbing the “evil monster” requires taking advantage of the hotline to identify and report trafficking cases.
NRP Chief Executive Officer, John Lyon, said the entity has taken on leadership in educating the public and training law enforcement officials, lawyers, and others to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking.
He expressed the hope that the hotline will increase reporting of human trafficking cases in the country.
WHI receives funding from the U.S. Government through the Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
It started work in Liberia in 1997 with exploited communities to alleviate poverty, suffering, and injustices.
A few months ago WHI said Liberia serves as a major route for human traffickers in West Africa because domestic slavery is highly practiced in Liberia, particularly in the south-eastern Liberian counties of Maryland, Grand Kru, Sinoe, River Gee and Grand Gedeh as areas where most of the children doing domestic slave work for guardians originate.
Nimba, Bong and Lofa are also mentioned in WHI report to be contributing at a minimal level.
Children who become victims are mostly teenagers either turned over to relatives and friends by parents, or upon relatives’ requests to bring them to Monrovia purportedly to go to school.