Fears grow of increase in people trafficking in typhoon-affected Philippines

Philippines - More than two months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated central parts of the Philippines, a rise in human trafficking could be on the cards unless appropriate prevention and protection measures are taken immediately, warns IOM.

Apart from killing over 6,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, Haiyan also cut a swathe through economic life in the area. The loss of homes and livelihoods forced tens of thousands of people out of the affected area, with many heading for the capital Manila. Their vulnerability has become an opportunity for traffickers to deceive or coerce them into exploitative situations, says IOM.

Today, a high-level mission from the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), visited IOM-assisted centres for displaced persons to see how anti-trafficking work can best be carried out in post-disaster situations. Their findings will feature in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, considered one of the most influential in this sector.

The visit was led by J/TIP’s Senior Coordinator for International Programs Dr. Cindy Smith and the Manila US Embassy’s Political Officer Jeff Otto.

“We’re keen to learn from the Haiyan response how to better address trafficking issues within crises and how to manage the response to reduce vulnerabilities and prevent trafficking incidents,” noted Dr. Smith.

IOM works with the Philippine government to respond to an increased risk of human trafficking across six critical areas, focusing on the worst-affected region of Eastern Visayas. As part of its own Migration Crisis Operational Framework and the Philippine government’s efforts in countering human trafficking, IOM is rolling out awareness raising through information and education materials and will hold activities for community representatives and law enforcers, on how to prevent and respond to trafficking in persons in times of emergencies.

“Eastern Visayas is known as a source of women and children for sexual exploitation, and men and boys for labour exploitation. This is primarily due to the high poverty incidence in the region,” noted IOM’s National Project Development Officer Romina Sta. Clara. 

“Although we don’t yet have accurate data on human trafficking cases post-Haiyan, there is a strong indication that, robbed of their assets and livelihoods, more people will become victims unless appropriate measures are taken immediately.”

The disaster has exacerbated the risks in an area that, as a gateway to Metro Manila, was a trafficking hotspot even before the typhoon hit.  The Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recorded 28 cases of human trafficking in Eastern Visayas from the first half of 2013, with 13 of those taking place Tacloban. 

 For more information please contact

Masako Ueda
IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok
Tel: +6623439419


Romina Sta. Clara
IOM Philippines
Tel: +639175456418