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United Way Blog

Ukraine War Increases Risks of Human Trafficking

So far, almost 5 million people -- mostly women and children -- have fled Ukraine, and experts predict 7 million will be forced to leave before the conflict is over. The United Nations calls this  the fastest growing refugee population in Europe since World War II, with neighboring countries like Poland, Romania, and Hungary seeing the biggest waves of people escaping the violence. 

We know that conflict such as war always increases vulnerabilities for citizens of the affected countries, thereby increasing risk of various forms of violence and exploitation, such as human trafficking. With their livelihoods disrupted and lacking the social and economic safety nets of home, Ukranian refugees are becoming vulnerable to traffickers.   

In a conversation with United Way Worldwide President & CEO Angela Williams, the CEO of United Way Hungary, Kinsco Adriany, shared that her team is already hearing stories of exploitation and human trafficking due to the conflict. Ukrainians fleeing the war, she explained, “are approached by criminals, and they are promising them money and hope.” The false promise of financial security and safety can lead to various forms of human trafficking, including both sex and labor trafficking.  

Traffickers posing as labor recruiters frequently target people in need of work, leading to human trafficking through forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution. Children fleeing the war unaccompanied may be at risk of kidnapping and could be forced into various forms of human trafficking such as labor, begging, marriage, or commercial sexual exploitation.  

Recognizing the urgency of this situation, United Way has taken action to support the people of Ukraine. As members of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), the United Way joined a congressional call to include anti-human trafficking programs in federal humanitarian relief legislation for Ukraine. 

And United Way Worldwide has launched the United for Ukraine Fund in response to this urgent and growing humanitarian crisis. The money raised through this fund will be used to support the work of United Way and its partners on the ground for Ukrainian refugees.

However you can, please support the women and children who are forced to rebuild their lives during this time of war.