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IJM’s May COVID-19 Update

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IJM’s May COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 has undeniably shaken our entire global community. Despite the complications caused by restrictions on content and movement, our committed teams all around the world continue to fight for justice and provide support for those who need it most. We’d love to share their work with you, so here’s some highlights!

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OVID-19 has undeniably shaken our entire global community. As many businesses shut down, the necessary lockdowns have their own sinister side effects, often making it much easier for abuse and exploitation to thrive. Despite these complications, our committed teams all around the world continue to fight for justice and provide support for those who need it most.

Here are some highlights from April and May

South Asia

Many survivors of human trafficking in Andhra Pradesh state, India, rely on informal, daily-wage work in order to survive. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the businesses they worked for have been forced to close, leaving casual workers with no source of income. In response to this, a survivor group called Jeevana Jwala—meaning ‘light of life’—have worked together to spread awareness and raise support for vulnerable groups, including trafficking survivors, who had lost their livelihood due to lockdowns. They started a campaign through a local crowdfunding site with the support of other NGO partners, in order to raise money for families in need. Despite only being launched in December, this new chapter of the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA) has shown incredible commitment to their community, acting quickly and effectively to mitigate the effects of the lockdowns on survivor families.

Sundarbans islands

On the India-Bangladesh border lies a world heritage site known as the Sundarbans islands. This community is notoriously difficult to reach and has also been affected by the recent Cyclone. These islands are only accessible by boat, and the COVID-19 lockdowns have left many already vulnerable people desperate for basic necessities. Relief packets are being provided to women vulnerable to abuse or trafficking. These relief packets mean that women whose husbands have been killed by tigers, who are known as ‘tiger widows’ and treated as outcasts in these communities, have access to food and hygiene products to get them through the lockdowns.

South East India

The Madras Social Workers, a volunteer group in South-East India, are collaborating with IJM, local authorities and the RBLA to provide relief kits across Tamil Nadu State. They have given these kits to 1,640 families so far, their team of 15 working tirelessly to raise local funds and pack and distribute them. Families were overwhelmed and joyful in response to receiving the kits, which include food and hygiene supplies intended to help them get through the increased hardship caused by COVID-19. Hilton Albert from MSW is motivated by the response from the families who receive the supplies. He said, “when each person received the relief kit, they smiled—and that was priceless!”

South East Asia

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to migrant workers in Thailand, who are usually entitled to social security benefits that no longer exist, and who are not eligible for the government’s financial aid package. The Regional Vice President for Forced Labour Programs in the Asia-Pacific region, Audrey Sawchenko, gave an interview about the unique vulnerabilities of migrant workers during COVID-19.

Read more about how IJM is addressing this here

The Philippines

IJM partners are committed to protecting children who are victims of cybersex trafficking. After the arrest of their parents who are suspected perpetrators of cybersex trafficking, two groups of siblings received emergency placement in foster homes. They are adjusting well and have been provided with clothes, food and other resources. Through the combined efforts of the IJM Aftercare team and partner organizations NORFIL and DSWD, these children are safe from exploitation and on their way to recovery. IJM Asia-Pacific also launched the powerful #BetterThanFlowers campaign in the lead-up to Mother’s Day on May 10th, encouraging viewers to donate to organizations fighting the online sexual exploitation of children rather than buying flowers.

Central America and the Caribbean

In the Dominican Republic, the IJM team has worked in conjunction with the police to cater for the basic needs of sex trafficking survivors. Where the lockdown had drastically affected their ability to earn money, the team have done all they can to ensure that they are able to and buy basic essentials like food and medicine. They also made a critical donation of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to strategic government partners, including the Police and the Child Welfare Agency. This will help them to protect themselves and others while they carry out vital work protecting children from sex trafficking.

Uganda

Due to social distancing restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several survivors in Uganda have had to return to their family homes to avoid crowding in shelters. However, many survivors have gone into households where food is scarce and business is slow or non-existent, leaving them at risk of starvation. The IJM team have responded by finding food for five of these families, feeding around 25 people in total.

Kenya

The IJM team in Kenya have been working hard alongside local justice center partners to donate hand washing stations to police. We hope that this will lead to greater collaboration and community feedback to combat police brutality against impoverished communities. IJM has been able to support a Kenyan woman named Beth, known as a ‘defender of young people’. Beth has spoken out for what is right in her community for many years, which has landed her in trouble with the police but also earned her respect as a leader. She was featured on local news coverage when she spoke out against her son being wrongfully detained by police. IJM was able to send an advocate to the police station at this time, and her son was released.

Ghana

Across Ghana, IJM staff have delivered PPE to aftercare partners, including social welfare workers and shelter staff. IJM was the first organization to reach out to the Bono East Police Command, and their staff showed a huge amount of gratitude and asked for God’s blessing on the work of IJM.

Europe

A nine-month process has finally ended in the successful opening of a bank account for IJM’s Romania office. This might seem like a small milestone, but it means that we can now hire key staff.

Also in Romania, there is increasing pressure on shelters for survivors of human trafficking, as demand for their services has increased during the lockdown but the availability of these services has become more scarce. One partner commented that they are giving out emergency food to survivors struggling without a source of income, something they haven’t had to do for years.

Romania

The IJM team has continued to do what they can in the midst of the restrictions, by helping police to build cases, providing information and paying legal fees. They also delivered food and PPE to care homes, helping them to provide good care to the survivors living there. Shawn Kohl, our Central and Eastern Europe Director, called it “a glorious and beautiful day,” thanking and praising the IJM supporters who have made it possible for our teams to continue helping those who need it most.

Help IJM Protect Those UnsafeinLockdown

IJM staff and partners are working tirelessly to protect those for whom lockdown presents as much danger as COVID-19 itself. Our teams have helped thousands to stay safe and healthy, but we won’t stop there.

Give now to ensure that we can keep reaching those who are #UnsafeInLockdown.

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