As with any disaster, natural or man-made, it is often children who are the most affected. In addition to the immediate health, psychological and welfare concerns, the separation of children from family increases the risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
The earthquake in Haiti has left many hundreds of children dependent on assistance from people with whom they have previously had no contact. While it is clear that the vast majority of people offering assistance following the Haiti earthquake are committed to improving the lives of children who have survived, these types of situations also attract individuals and organised criminal syndicates seeking to gain access to possible victims who can then be exploited by their inherent vulnerability.
There are also concerns over increased offers of international adoption, as there are known links between this market and child trafficking and exploitation networks.
Law enforcement can play a role in supporting local, national and international agencies in protecting children and the prevention of exploitation and trafficking, including assistance in locating family members and the provision of safe places for unaccompanied minors.
INTERPOL has offered its full support to authorities in Haiti and the surrounding region in working with international partners in verifying the identities of children crossing borders.
In addition, if requested, INTERPOL can issue Yellow Notices to help locate and identify missing persons, particularly children.
The General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon has also issued a warning to each of its 188 member countries to request particular vigilance in identifying potential victims of child trafficking of victims from the Haiti disaster.