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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                        


Colombia has experienced accelerating growth between 2002 and 2007, with expansion above 7% in 2007, chiefly due to advancements in domestic security, to rising commodity prices, and to President URIBE's promarket economic policies. Colombia's sustained growth helped reduce poverty by 20% and cut unemployment by 25% since 2002. Additionally, investor friendly reforms to Colombia's hydrocarbon sector and the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) negotiations have attracted record levels of foreign investment. Inequality, underemployment, and narco-trafficking remain significant challenges, and Colombia's infrastructure requires significant updating in order to sustain expansion.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Colombia

Colombia is a major source country for women and girls trafficked to Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Asia, and North America, including the United States, for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Within Colombia, some men are trafficked for forced labor, but trafficking of women and children from rural to urban areas for commercial sexual exploitation remains a larger problem.  - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009 Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Colombia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration
1 622 77 74
Country code: 57-



Colombian Hailed as Hero in Fight Against Trafficking in Persons

Brian Kaper, U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, 15 June 2004

[accessed 29 August 2014]

Francisco Sierra, Colombia's ambassador to Japan, has made it his personal goal to stop this trafficking in persons that has taken so many women into forced prostitution. For his efforts, Sierra was recognized by Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 14 as one of six heroes in the fight against an illicit industry that preys upon society's most vulnerable members.

Sierra said the women are told they will find a better life by working in other countries such as Holland, Japan, and Spain, but they most often find themselves trapped into working in brothels to pay off their so-called "transportation" fees; such fees may total as much as $50,000 to $80,000. Sierra said that the women are expected to pay their captors roughly $2,000 every ten days or they will be severely punished.

Colombia: Newfangled Human Trafficking

24 August 2006 -- Source:

Colombia harbors new ways of human trafficking involving young children, body parts, labor exploitation and recruitment for the domestic armed conflict.  Adriana Ruiz, coordinator of the UN anti-Trafficking Project, added that human trafficking now joins traditional trafficking of women for sex slavery in Europe and Asia.  Although she lacked precise numbers, Ms. Ruiz denounced theft of babies and a worrying traffic of organs like ovaries and ovules, as well as labor exploitation via domestic service.

U.N. Official Says Indigenous Face Extinction [Regarding Conditions in Colombia]

Stacey Hunt, 2004 Colombia Week, 2004-03-22

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 26 April 2020]

Colombian indigenous communities are in danger of extinction as paramilitaries and guerrillas target them for massacre, torture, displacement, rape and forced recruitment, a U.N. official said March 16.

One group, the Kankuamos of northern Colombia's Sierra Nevada Mountains, has lost more than 200 members to killings since 1986, said Stavenhagen, a Mexican. Ten Kankuamos have been murdered since an October demand by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights that the Colombian government adopt measures to prevent the group's genocide, he added.

While indigenous peoples constitute only 2 percent of Colombia's 44 million inhabitants, their traditional territories cover 30 percent of the country.  Paramilitaries, guerrilla groups and government forces fight to control rural land and people for a variety of reasons, including drug cultivation, forced conscription and land grabs.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Colombia

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 30 May 2021]


There were reports ELN guerrillas and organized-crime gangs used forced labor, including forced child labor, in coca cultivation and illegal mining in areas outside government control as well as forced criminality, such as extortion, in urban areas. The ICBF indicated that between November 16, 1999, and July 31, 2019, the number of children and adolescents who had demobilized from illegal armed groups was 6,860, of whom 11 percent were indigenous and 8 percent Afro-Colombian.

Forced labor in other sectors, including organized panhandling, mining, agriculture (especially near the coffee belt), cattle herding, crop harvesting, forced recruitment by illegal armed actors, and domestic service, remained a serious problem. Afro-Colombians, indigenous persons, Venezuelan migrants, and inhabitants of marginalized urban areas were at the highest risk of forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced recruitment. Authorities did not make efforts to investigate cases or increase inspections of forced labor, and officials did not have a protocol to connect labor inspectors with police or to provide guidance for front-line personnel on indicators of forced labor. This resulted in impunity for forced labor and unidentified victims without protection in critical sectors, such as floriculture, coffee production, and extractive industries.


Child labor remained a problem in the informal and illicit sectors. The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) collected and published information on the economic activities of children between the ages of five and 17 through a module in its Comprehensive Household Economic Survey during the fourth quarter of each calendar year. According to DANE’s most recent survey, conducted in 2019, 5.4 percent of children were working, with 42 percent of those engaged in agriculture, livestock raising, fishing, and hunting, and 30 percent in commerce, hotels, and restaurant work. To a lesser extent, children were engaged in the manufacturing and transport sectors. Children also routinely performed domestic work, where they cared for children, prepared meals, tended gardens, and carried out shopping duties. DANE reported that 46 percent of children who were engaged in an employment relationship did not receive remuneration.

Significant rates of child labor occurred in the production of clay bricks, coal, coffee, emeralds, gold, grapes, coca, pome and stone fruits, pornography, and sugarcane. Forced child labor was prevalent in the production of coca. Children were also engaged in street vending, domestic work, begging, and garbage scavenging. There were reports that children engaged in child labor in agriculture, including coffee production and small family production centers in the unrefined brown sugar market. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred (see section 6, Children).

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 8 July 2020]


Child labor, the recruitment of children by illegal armed groups, and related sexual abuse are serious problems in Colombia; recruitment has declined but not ended since the peace accord. A 2011 free trade agreement with the United States and a subsequent Labor Action Plan called for enhanced investigation of abusive labor practices and rights violations, but progress remains deficient in several areas. In coca-growing zones, armed groups exert coercive pressure on farmers to engage in coca cultivation and shun crop-substitution programs.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 17 April 2019]

[accessed 24 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 287]

Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs more often in private homes rented online than in commercial establishments. (9) In Bucaramanga, child victims of commercial sexual exploitation are allegedly recruited in schools by other students. (34) In mining areas, trafficking of children for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation is widespread. (35) In Cartagena, children are forced by illegal armed groups and criminal organizations to commit homicides. (36)

The government reports that the recruitment and use of children by illegal armed groups has declined by 60 percent since the government and the FARC signed a peace accord in 2016. However, the National Liberation Army, Popular Liberation Army, and non-ideological criminal organizations such as the Gulf Clan continued to recruit children in 2017. (9).

RIGHTS-COLOMBIA: Trafficking Victims’ Ordeal Never Over

Helda Martínez, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Bogotá, Jun 10 , 2009

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 8 September 2016]

According to the available data, some 70,000 people fall victim to human trafficking every year in Colombia, which ranks third in the number of victims in Latin America, behind the Dominican Republic and Brazil.

MARÍA AND HER NEVER-ENDING FEAR - But people do fall for the bogus offers because they are in dire need of an opportunity for a better life. That was what happened to María, a 40-year old woman originally from the central province of Tolima, who was living on the outskirts of Bogotá when she was captured by members of a trafficking mafia.   She admitted to IPS that she’s still scared her captors will find her or come after her kids. Her fear will not leave her, even though she knows she’s protected by Fundación Esperanza and that her case is being prosecuted. "I wanted to go back to being me, but I can’t anymore," she said.   She’s also filled with rage. In November 2008 she and her family carefully examined the work contract before she decided to accept a job as a domestic in the home of a wealthy Colombian family in the United States. It provided at least a short-term solution to the unemployment and lack of income that were causing her such anxiety.

In the 39 days she worked as a modern-day slave, María’s weight plunged from 58 to 41 kilos, and she was forced to spend hours on her knees cleaning, constantly watched and threatened, until she was collapsing from exhaustion.   Worst of all, she was prevented from contacting her family, María told IPS, speaking very softly, as if trying to exorcise the horrible experience. A Salvadoran woman working as a domestic in a neighbouring house noticed María’s rapid weight loss and the frightened look on her face, and decided to approach her when her captors were not watching.   The woman from El Salvador told María that what her "employers" were doing was illegal, explained how to unblock the telephone, and gave her an emergency number to phone the police for help.   But the police merely forced her captors to give back her passport and admonished them for how they were treating her.   That night, María’s kidnappers scared her with all sorts of threats against her and her family back in Colombia. They warned her that if she didn’t sign a paper exonerating them from all responsibility, they would report her to the police and accuse her of several offences, and she would be thrown in jail for years.

Human trafficking's dirty profits and huge costs

Inter-American Development Bank, Nov 2, 2006

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

CASES IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN - In Colombia, more than 14,000 children are kidnapped each year and forced to become soldiers for the paramilitary or other militia forces, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Report, 2003.

Report: Japan Sex Industry Ensnares Latin Women

Associated Press AP, Lima Peru, April 30, 2005

[accessed 18 July 2013]

When she arrived she was raped by all three men and sold to a Yakuza organized crime boss, who branded her across the chest with a 6-inch (15-centimeter) rose tattoo. He forced her to provide sexual services to up to 40 clients a day, she said.

Colombia, Japan to tackle trafficking

The Asahi Shimbun & The International Herald Tribune IHT/ASAHI, January 19,2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

The Japanese and Colombian governments have agreed on a series of steps aimed at preventing human trafficking and providing support to sex-trade victims.

The officials explained to their Colombian counterparts about Japan's new policy of treating women duped into exploitation as victims to protect. The women will be allowed to stay in shelters for an extended period of time rather than be subject to immediate deportation.

In turn, the Colombian government has promised to step up control on passport forgeries, according to the officials.  Colombia will also make efforts to publicize that victims of human trafficking in Japan, if they seek help from police, will be placed under protection.  Colombia will also take measures to improve mental care provided to victims when they return to Colombia, according to the officials.

Japan urged to stamp put trafficking in women

Yoshimi Nagamine, 2003 Yomiuri Shimbun, 2003-11-29

[accessed 30 January 2011]

"I was told there was a job at a beauty salon. But when I arrived in Japan, I was taken to a strip joint and confined in a second-floor room," said the woman in a vivid description of her treatment.  "Then they demanded I return 5 million yen in travel expenses and I was forced to work as a prostitute.  "A Japanese broker took pictures of me naked and said he would kill my family if I ran away. He kept punching me until I was left covered in bruises," the woman went on to say.  This woman ran into the Colombian Embassy in May last year, seeking protection after running away from her captors.  According to the embassy, more than 70 such women have sought refuge at the embassy.

Japan, the Mecca for Trafficking in Colombian Women [PDF]

Fanny Polanía Molina,, Japan, 2001

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

"A dangerous network of trafficking in women is captured. A dangerous network dedicated to trafficking in women, at the service of the Japanese Mafia, was disarticulated this weekend by units belonging to the DAS – the Administrative Security Department. The DAS had known of the existence of the actions by the Japanese Mafia for two years now, which, through Colombian contacts, sought beautiful young women to engage them in prostitution."

Trafficking in Colombian women to the Asian continent has become “a true threat for thousands of Colombian women who end up as slaves in Japan and other countries." Trafficking in Colombian women to Japan began in the 80s, when the Japa nese Mafia began to make incursions in Colombian territory and decided to set up their center of operations in certain regions of the country.

Sex slavery racket a growing concern in Latin America

Timothy Pratt, The Christian Science Monitor, January 11, 2001

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

Viviana was one of what the Interpol estimates are 35,000 women trafficked out of Colombia every year, with estimated profits of $500 million, making it second only to the Dominican Republic in the West.  "It began when a neighbor told me I was pretty, and could work in a casino in Spain and make good money," recalls Viviana. "She said I could earn $1,000 a week. It seemed like the only way I could ever buy a house for my son. So I said yes."

The offer seemed like a good deal, until she got to Asturias, Spain, where a man began explaining about "towels, sheets, condoms, and percentages." He also said she owed them $4,000. She then realized - "this was not a casino, it was a bordello." She spent that night crying, convinced she had "fallen into the jaws of a beast."

Colombia This Week -- November 22, 2004

Colombia This Week is a news summary produced and distributed by ABColombia Group. Sources include daily Colombian, US, European and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-governmental organisations and the UN System

[accessed 29 August 2014]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

 [scroll down to Thurs 18]

14,000 CHILDREN IN COLOMBIAN ARMED GROUPS; COLOMBIA'S ROLE IN PLAN PUEBLA-PANAMA - UK-based NGOs Save the Children and Amnesty International report that more than 14,000 child soldiers are fighting in the Colombian conflict, denouncing that the illegal armed groups (FARC, ELN and AUC) are systemically recruiting children under 15 years old from indigenous and rural communities, putting their lives at extreme risk and sending them to the front line of battle.

Colombia: "Scarred bodies, hidden crimes": Sexual Violence against women in the armed conflict

Amnesty International, Index Number: AMR 23/040/2004, Date Published: 11 October 2004

[accessed 21 January 2016]

[accessed 30 January 2019]

"Paramilitary and guerrilla groups seek to intrude into even the most intimate aspects of women’s lives in areas under their control by setting curfews and dress codes, and by humiliating, flogging, raping and even killing those who dare to transgress," said Ms Lee.

Colombia: Full-flexed war after government breaks off peace talks

Human Rights Education Associates HREA, 25 Feb 2002

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Those who will be hardest hit by the government's offensive are the most marginalized Colombians ? poor, indigenous and Afro-Colombian women and their families. Already, more than 25% of Colombians have been displaced by fighting between the FARC and the Colombian government (the latter aided by paramilitaries that are responsible for 75% of the country's human rights violations, including 3,500 killings each year). All warring parties stand accused of grave human rights abuses, including assassinations, torture and kidnapping of civilians. Crimes against women include forced servitude, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced sterilization and forced pregnancy.

IOM press briefing notes 10 Aug 2004: Sudan, Colombia

Spokesperson: Jean Philippe Chauzy, International Organization for Migration IOM, 10 August 2004

[accessed 30 January 2011]

COLOMBIA - WORKSHOP TO PREVENT THE FORCED RECRUITMENT OF MINORS - IOM Bogota has carried out the first of a series of training workshops for government officials, UN agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP and NGOs staff working with minors at high-risk for recruitment into illegal armed groups.

IOM presented the "Vulnerability, Risk and Opportunity Map" (Mapa de Vulnerabilidad, Riesgo y Oportunidad), a methodology aimed at helping local governments and civil society to work together to tackle and prevent forced conscription.

Plight of Colombia's child recruits

Jeremy McDermott , BBC News, 19 September, 2003

[accessed 30 January 2011]

Some 112 former child combatants were interviewed for the publication, which describes how children are recruited into the ranks of the Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries from as young as eight years old and gradually hardened to violence.  Around 25% of guerrilla ranks are female and the study highlighted the problem of sexual abuse many young girls are subjected to by their guerrilla superiors.  Females as young as 12 are forced to use contraception and, if they get pregnant, must undergo abortions.

You’ll Learn Not To Cry - Child Combatants in Colombia

This report provides the first comprehensive account of child combatants in Colombia, and covers their recruitment, training, life in the ranks, role in combat, and treatment after desertion, capture, or rescue.

Human Rights Watch, September 18, 2003

[accessed 21 January 2016]

RECRUITMENT METHODS - The great majority of child recruits to the irregular forces decide to join voluntarily. Yet forcible recruitment occurs in some parts of Colombia. Human Rights Watch interviewed thirteen former combatants, all of whom had belonged to either the FARC-EP or the UC-ELN, who described having been forced to join the ranks of the group unwillingly; they made up slightly more than 10 percent of the children we interviewed. Another two children said that they had been pressured to join a guerrilla group. And even the voluntary decision to join irregular forces is more a reflection of the dismal lack of opportunities open to children from the poorest sector of rural society than a real exercise of free will.

'Street of the Damned' Loses its Daughters; Colombian Kidnappers Target Poor Children

Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Foreign Service, April 27, 1999

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[accessed 13 August 2020]

Like a nightmarish fairy tale in which young girls are spirited away by monsters, five were abducted from this three-block stretch of 125th Street in Bogota's Miguelito neighborhood from November 1995 to July 1997. Not one has been found.

War Without Quarter: Colombia And International Humanitarian Law

Human Rights Watch, October 1998

[accessed 29 August 2014]

II COLOMBIA AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW - The drama of Guintar is repeated throughout Colombia, where war is not fought primarily between armed and uniformed combatants on battlefields, but against the civilian population and in their homes, farms, and towns. Many of the victims of Colombia’s war wear no uniform, hold no gun, and profess no allegiance to any armed group. Indeed, battles between armed opponents are the exception. Instead, combatants deliberately and implacably target and kill the civilians they believe support their enemies, whether or not the civilians are even aware that they are in peril.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6 October 2000

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[69] While the Committee takes note of the State party's efforts to combat the trafficking and sale of children, it remains concerned about the lack of adequate preventive measures in this area.

The Protection Project - Colombia [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[Last accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - As of November 2003, more than 70 Colombian women claiming to be victims of trafficking had sought refuge at the Colombian embassy in Japan. The embassy started receiving calls from trafficked women in 1997. Many Colombian women from the countryside seek jobs in cities, where they are then solicited to go to Japan. One Colombian woman was assured by her potential manager at a nightclub in Japan that she would not be forced to work in prostitution. Instead, she was sold to a strip club in Nishi-Kawaguchi, where she worked 12 hours a day.

Some 567,000 minors from 6 to 18 years of age work in Colombia, 323,000 of them in the domestic service industry. Of these children, 87 percent are girls. Young women from rural areas leave for provincial capitals with offers of good jobs as domestic workers. Often, actual working conditions are much worse than those promised to them. They are subjected to sexual, physical, and psychological abuse and receive only a portion of the wages promised them.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

[accessed 30 January 2011]


2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 19 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


There were reports ELN guerrillas and organized criminal gangs used forced labor, including forced child labor, in coca cultivation and illegal mining in areas outside government control as well as forced labor for criminal activity, such as extortion, in urban areas. The ICBF noted it was difficult to produce exact statistics on the number of children who participated in illegal armed groups due to the groups’ clandestine nature. In February 2016 the FARC announced it would stop recruiting children under the age of 18. The FARC reached an agreement with the government in May 2016 on how to release minors already in the ranks and facilitate their reintegration. As of June 14, the FARC released 88 children, according to UNICEF. As part of a temporary bilateral ceasefire between the government and the ELN scheduled from October 1 to January 12, 2018, the ELN committed to stop the recruitment of minors.

Forced labor in other sectors, including organized begging, mining, agriculture, forced recruitment by illegal armed actors, and domestic service, also remained a serious problem. Afro-Colombians, indigenous Colombians, and inhabitants of marginalized urban areas were at the highest risk of forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced recruitment.


Child labor remained a problem in the informal and illicit sectors. In April the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) published the results of a 2015 survey of child labor that measured child labor during October-December 2014. DANE data noted that, of the 11.1 million children between ages five and 17, an estimated one million worked outside the home (approximately 68 percent boys and 32 percent girls). The national rate of children who worked outside the home was 7.8 percent, with 4.2 percent of children ages five to 14 working and 19.8 percent of children ages 15 to 17 working. For the period of the study, 29.8 percent of the children who worked did not attend school. According to the study, 36.3 percent of child laborers in urban areas engaged in commerce, hotel, and restaurant work, while 36.6 percent of child laborers in rural areas engaged in agriculture, fishing, cattle farming, hunting, and forestry work; 47.2 percent of working children ages five to 17 did not receive payment.

Significant rates of child labor occurred in the production of clay bricks, coal, emeralds, gold, coca, and pornography. Children also worked as street vendors and domestic servants and were engaged in begging and garbage scavenging. There were also reports that children were involved in agriculture, including coffee production and small family production centers in the unrefined brown sugar market, as well as selling inexpensive Venezuelan gasoline. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

CHILDREN – Although the law prohibits service in the public security forces before age 18, both paramilitaries and guerrillas forcibly recruited and used children as soldiers. The IOM estimated that since 1999 it assisted 2,426 children in the country who had been members of illegal armed groups. The Ministry of Defense estimated that 20 percent of FARC members were minors and that most guerrilla fighters had joined the FARC ranks as children.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Many traffickers disclosed the sexual nature of the work they offered but concealed information about working conditions, clientele, freedom of movement, and compensation. Others disguised their intent by portraying themselves as modeling agents, offering marriage brokerage services, or operating lottery or bingo scams with free trips as prizes. Recruiters reportedly loitered outside high schools, shopping malls, and parks to lure adolescents into accepting nonexistent jobs abroad. Most traffickers were well-organized and linked to narcotics or other criminal organizations. The armed conflict created situations of vulnerability for a large number of internal trafficking victims.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Colombia is a source and transit country for girls trafficked for sexual exploitation.  There are also reports of internal trafficking of boys for forced labor.  Children are recruited, sometimes forcibly, by guerrilla and paramilitary groups in Colombia to serve as combatants, and are used by government armed forces as informants.  They are also used as messengers, spies, and sexual partners, and to carry out such tasks as kidnapping and guarding of hostages and transporting and placing bombs.  There are reports that high rates of school dropout, due to various aspects of the armed conflict, increase children’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child prostitution, or recruitment into an armed group.

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