University of Georgia to host virtual launch of anti-trafficking program in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 February 2021:

The University of Georgia (UGA), the U.S. Department of State, and World Hope International will co-host a virtual Sierra Leone Child Anti-Trafficking Program Launch Event on Tuesday, March 2nd at 2 pm. This free virtual launch event will detail the results of groundbreaking child trafficking research and a new, impactful program for child trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone.

The forum is presented by the African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, and World Hope International. The Honorable Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, is the keynote speaker.

The program launch marks an important step towards justice for child trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone. APRIES’ research, conducted in close partnership with Conflict Management & Development Associates (CMDA) in Sierra Leone, finds that children suffering from different forms of trafficking and exploitation in Sierra Leone are trapped in their situations with little prospect of help or intervention.

In addition, a household survey conducted by APRIES and CMDA showed a number of children had been trafficked in the three study regions of Kenema, Kono, and Kailahun.

World Hope International (WHI) operates the only dedicated shelter for trafficking survivors in Sierra Leone. With this new program, WHI will expand its services and advocacy for child survivors in three essential areas: prosecution of perpetrators, protection of survivors, and prevention of future trafficking.

WHI will work in close collaboration with the Ministries of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Justice and Local Government and Rural Development.

The Government of Sierra Leone has accomplished invaluable work in the fight against human trafficking within its borders. Trafficking survivors are gaining access to justice due to the tireless efforts of multiple ministries and individuals.

APRIES enthusiastically welcomes government advocates for trafficking survivors to this exciting launch event.

“Our research shows great need for anti-trafficking programs and policies that support survivors and reduce the risks, drivers, and facilitators of trafficking at the community level. These programs should be locally appropriate, sustainable, responsive, and survivor-centered,” said Dr. David Okech, Director of APRIES and Professor at the UGA School of Social Work.

“The fight to end trafficking in persons requires collaboration and partnership between governments and civil society,” stated U. S Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elaine M. French.  “The APRIES program represents an important step towards understanding and preventing child trafficking in Sierra Leone, while supporting survivors and addressing the root causes.”

The launch is part of a $4 million grant to UGA through the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Program to End Modern Slavery to measure the prevalence of child trafficking and implement anti-trafficking programs in hotspot regions of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

APRIES staff Dr. Claire Bolton, Program Manager for Sierra Leone and Umaru Fofanah, In-Country Coordinator for Sierra Leone coordinated the launch event. Other planning committee members included Dr. David Okech, Director of APRIES; Bernadette Udo, Program Manager at World Hope International; and Dr. Rebecca Poon, MERL Coordinator, APRIES.

To see a full list of speakers and to register for the event, visit:


  1. The Greatest love of All – I believe the Children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way; show them all the beauty they possess inside; Give them a sense of Pride to make it easier; let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. (Whitney Houston) Indeed, those pictures above remind us all of how joyful, hopeful, blissful, and optimistic we were as children; Just look at all those little, happy innocent faces beaming and shimmering with a brightness that outshines the rays of the majestic Eternal Sun. Protect the children! Protect our Future leaders!

  2. Whilst the government had made strides in tackling human trafficking for the purpose of sexual slavery and forced labour internationally, what is less talked about, is the trafficking of vulnerable people within the country. In the vast majority, the victims are young men and young girls who are vulnerable and sworn by societies. With increased economic hardship, there is no shortage of victims. This corroboration with the University of Georgia, will shine a light on some home truths that have so far been avoided or not talked about at all. Like everything in Sierra leone, we only talk about our problems we know that exist, but fail to do anything about it, until a foreigner points it out to us. WHY?

    In a recent state department report on human trafficking, Sierra Leone was upgraded to Tier 2, because of the efforts put in place in jailing convicted first time traffickers, to no less than fifteen years. With economic effects of COVID19, government should build more shelters, to help the victims and their families. Training of law enforcement officials in identifying victims, can also help in stopping this scourge in Sierra leone. Because sometimes victims are blamed for their predicaments.

    Most importantly, governments should deliver, by creating more opportunities for the young in our country, expanding programmes like vocational training and tackling corruption. The programmes should be repeated right across the country. Right now, help for trafficked victims is only available in Freetown and in a limited capacity. So victims from Pujehun, Kabala, Makeni, Kailahun, Kono, Moyamba, Bonthe, etc will not make it to Freetown to seek help.

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