Humanitarian crises are known to amplify vulnerabilities to modern slavery, not just in the immediate aftermath but these effects can last months and years after the crisis is perceived to be over. At the Freedom Fund, we are acutely conscious of these lingering consequences and are actively adapting our support to slavery-prone communities in response to the covid-19 pandemic.
Previous humanitarian crises and their responses hold many valuable lessons. We looked to past crises to understand what has been learnt and how this may inform anti-slavery efforts in the deadly shadow of the coronavirus. A number of major lessons shone through:
1) From the outset, it is important to incorporate anti-slavery efforts into the broader response. If multiple actors are working in the same geography or offering similar assistance, these efforts must be coordinated.
2) Existing factors that make people vulnerable to modern slavery are likely to have been exacerbated by the crisis, and new vulnerabilities may emerge. Responders should have a deep understanding of these shifts and programming must be adjusted accordingly.
3) Prevention campaigns are needed, these should include, but go beyond awareness-raising. Campaigns must be pre-emptive and should not wait for there to be evidence of exploitation taking place.
4) Community engagement is crucial to overcoming the pandemic and building resilience afterwards, responders should engage community leaders and ensure their actions foster trust.
5) Finally, the fallout from previous crises have taught us about the importance of investing in long-term recovery, which includes sustainable livelihoods for adults and accessible education for children. These can be crucial factors in preventing re-exploitation.