Actress and UNICEF Ambassador Angie Harmon just returned from a visit to Nicaragua, where she traveled to bring attention to the horrors of child trafficking within the Central American country and across the globe.
During her trip Harmon witnessed UNICEF programs to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse and spoke with adolescent girls and boys about their experiences.
“In Nicaragua I met adolescents who have lived through some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable, including two 11-year-old girls who were sexually exploited,” said UNICEF Ambassador Angie Harmon.
“But I didn’t see victims, I saw survivors. I was awed by their strength and by their desire to help not only themselves, but also their peers.”
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Within Nicaragua, children are subjected to sex and labor trafficking, and the country also serves as a source and transit point for trafficking into other Central American nations, Mexico and the United States.
Girls are often recruited in rural areas for work in urban centers and then forced into prostitution, according to UNICEF.
Nicaragua is a destination for tourists from the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, some of whom engage in commercial sexual exploitation of children.
In addition, children are forced into working in agriculture, in the informal sector, and in domestic settings in Nicaragua and neighboring countries.
Worldwide, an estimated 5.5 million children are victims of trafficking, an illegal enterprise that generates billions of dollars in yearly profits. Children make up a quarter of forced labor and human trafficking’s global victims.
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Their childhoods stolen from them, they are bought and sold like commodities, and forced to work at grueling, dangerous jobs with little or no pay. Forced child labor occurs in the sex trade, in restaurants and bars, in the agricultural sector and tourism industry, in janitorial work, and in private homes.
To combat child trafficking, UNICEF works to reduce factors that place children and families at risk in the first place.
Harmon’s trip took place as part of the End Trafficking Project, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s initiative to raise awareness about child trafficking and mobilize communities to take meaningful action to help protect children.
In her first role after being appointed a UNICEF Ambassador in January 2013, Angie Harmon filmed a PSA and participated in media interviews to urge Americans to help end the inhumane practice of child trafficking.
Most recently, she has called on her social media following to support UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts for children in Syria and the Philippines and to participate in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, the 63-year-old fundraising campaign.