In quake-struck Nepal, traffickers offer to buy children for $500 each

Nepalese children affected by the earthquake gather inside a makeshift shelter in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Aid workers have warned that children are at risk from sex traffickers.Reuters

In a village in earthquake-struck Nepal, human traffickers are offering to pay as cheap as $500 per child in a bid to take advantage of the disaster that has befallen villagers.

This sordid activity was uncovered by a team of four young people from two churches in Southern California who visited the Gorkha district village of Armi, a six-hour drive from the capital Kathmandu of Nepal, to extend assistance. They turned out to be the only responders to arrive in the area.

"When the earthquake struck, 36 people were killed and every single home was levelled," said Sam Ellis, a youth minister at Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach. With him on the relief mission was Ryah Arthur, who also comes from the same church, as well as Tali Constantz and John Fredricks from Saddleback Church.

More than 8,000 people were killed by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks that hit Nepal last April. Another earthquake struck the country on May 12.

Ellis' team went to Armi to help the villagers rebuild their houses and their lives, Godreports wrote on Tuesday. They visited people, offered first aid, prayed with them, and presented Gospel.

Two months ago, a church started in the village, which is predominantly Hindu for centuries. The church is now composed of 12 people.

But as the people of Nepal try to rebuild their lives, traffickers have taken advantage of people's misery to boost their illicit trade.

"School is not in session now and traffickers are coming around, offering $500 per child, saying they will find work for the children," Ellis said.

An NGO involved in the fight against human trafficking, KI Nepal, has assigned lookouts at the border to rescue trafficked children.

The United Nations and local NGOs estimate that 12,000 to 15,000 girls a year are trafficked from Nepal, some taken overseas to South Korea and even South Africa.

Most end up in Indian brothels where they work in appalling conditions, The Guardian reported last month.

"This is the time when the brokers go in the name of relief to kidnap or lure women. We are distributing assistance to make people aware that someone might come to lure them," said Sunita Danuwar, director of Shakti Samuha, an NGO in Kathmandu. "We are getting reports of [individuals] pretending to go for rescuing and looking at people."

Despite the tragedy that struck Armi villagers, Ellis said he witnessed miracles and Hindu families receiving Christ.

"Many people came up to me asking for prayer. They are open to Jesus," he said.

He also described the village people as industrious and persevering who still keep on fighting on after losing their houses and the people they love.

"They are strong people, who work all day, starting at 5 a.m., working in their fields," Sam noted. All the roofs of their houses fell in. They are very stressed because they have so much more work, to rebuild and tend their fields," he said.

Ellis said there is still so much to do for those affected by the earthquake. "There is no place on earth like this place and people. As the only responders here, we feel that the world must continue to respond. There is so much still to do. We must."