Social media presents ‘profound risk of harm’ for kids, surgeon general says, calling attention to lack of research

There’s not enough evidence to determine whether social media is safe enough for children and adolescents when it comes to their mental health, according to a new advisory from the US surgeon general. 

Tuesday’s advisory notes that although there are some benefits, social media use presents “a profound risk of harm” for kids. It calls for increased research into social media’s impact on youth mental health, as well as action from policymakers and technology companies. 

The 25-page advisory comes as a growing number of states are aiming to tighten regulations on social media platforms, including efforts in Montana to ban TikTok. 

Surgeon general advisories are designed to call attention to urgent public health issues and provide recommendations for how they should be addressed, the new report notes. Previous advisories have focused on youth mental health more broadly, health misinformation and use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone

“We’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harm that kids are experiencing,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Parenting in the era of ubiquitous screens and social media 

“For too long, we have placed the entire burden of managing social media on the shoulders of parents and kids, despite the fact that these platforms are designed by some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on them,” he said. “So that is not a fair fight. It’s time for us to have the backs of parents and kids.” 

The advisory includes a review of the available evidence on the effects of social media on youth mental health, noting that social media use among kids is “nearly universal”: Up to 95% of kids ages 13 to 17 report using social media, with more than a third saying they use it “almost constantly.” And although 13 is commonly the minimum age to use social media sites in the US (an age Murthy has previously said is too young, the advisory notes that nearly 40% of kids ages 8 to 12 use the platforms, as well. 

“We must acknowledge the growing body of research about potential harms, increase our collective understanding of the risks associated with social media use, and urgently take action to create safe and healthy digital environments,” the advisory says. 

The report cites several ways in which social media may cause harm to youth mental health, noting that the adolescent years are a particularly vulnerable time for brain development. It details studies that found correlations between social media use and depression and anxiety, as well as poor sleep, online harassment and low self-esteem, particularly for girls. 

One study of 6,595 US adolescents between ages 12 and 15 found that those who spent more than three hours a day on social media had twice the risk of symptoms of depression and anxiety as non-users, the report notes. It also cites studies that found reducing social media use led to improvements in mental health. 

Social media use presents a risk of exposure to dangerous content, including depictions of self-harm, “which can normalize such behaviors,” the advisory says. It also cites 20 studies that found a significant relationship between social media use and body image concerns and eating disorders. 

Teens should be trained before entering the world of social media, APA says 

Murthy told CNN that the three most common things he hears from kids about social media are, “number one, it makes them feel worse about themselves; number two, it makes them feel worse about their friendships; but number three, they can’t get off of it.” 

Excessive use of social media can disrupt important healthy behaviors, including sleep, the advisory warns, noting that platforms are often designed to keep users engaged with push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll features, and algorithms that use the user’s data to tailor content recommendations. It cites some researchers’ belief that social media exposure, with excessive stimulation to the brain’s reward centers, “can trigger pathways comparable to addiction.” 

The advisory’s summary of potential risks of social media use on youth mental health spans five pages; its description of the potential benefits takes just half a page. It notes that social media can provide positive community and connection with others, which can be especially important for kids who are often marginalized. It cites studies showing mental health benefits from social media use for lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other youth through peer connections, and “identity-affirming content” related to race that was positive for adolescent girls of color. Finally, it notes that social media can be helpful by connecting some kids with mental health care. 

The advisory includes recommendations for families grappling with social media use, including creating family media plans, encouraging kids to develop in-person friendships and modeling good social media behavior. 

Murthy said it’s something he and his wife have discussed for their children, who are now 5 and 6.

Their plan is to delay social media use until at least after middle school; to try to find other families to partner with who are similarly inclined, “because there is strength in numbers”; and to reassess when the kids are in high school to see if better safety standards have been put in place “and are actually enforced,” he said. 

“None of this is easy for parents to do,” he acknowledged. “That’s why we’re pushing so hard through this advisory to make the urgent case for action.” 

Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of the tech coalition Chamber of Progress, said online platforms have heard the concerns from parents and researchers and implemented features to protect younger users, such as limiting nighttime notifications. 

“I’m sure that efforts to protect kids are well intentioned, but we shouldn’t trade away teens’ privacy by requiring them to verify their age, or shut off their access to supportive online communities,” Kovacevich said in a statement. 

Murthy says he hopes the report will spur action at multiple levels, such as increased research and funding for it, policy changes and particularly increased transparency and action from technology companies. 

“Independent researchers tell us all the time that they have a hard time getting full access to the information that they need from technology companies about the health impacts on kids,” he said. 

Murthy said social media companies should be held to similar standards for protecting children as other industries are. 

“We take this approach of safety first with other products that kids use, from medications to car seats to toys,” Murthy said. “We need to do it here, too.” 

By Meg Tirrell, CNN 



Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for The 109th World Day of migrants and refugees 2023

Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay

Dear brothers and sisters! The migratory flows of our times are the expression of a complex and varied phenomenon that, to be properly understood, requires a careful analysis of every aspect of its different stages, from departure to arrival, including the possibility of return. As a contribution to this effort, I have chosen to devote the Message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the freedom that should always mark the decision to leave one’s native land.
“Free to leave, free to stay” was the title of an initiative of solidarity promoted several years ago by the Italian Episcopal Conference as a concrete response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration movements. From attentive listening to the Particular Churches, I have come to see that ensuring that freedom is a widely shared pastoral concern.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel. The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts,natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave. Already in 2003, Saint John Paul II stated that “as regards migrants and refugees, building conditions of peace means in practice being seriously committed to safeguarding first of all the right not to emigrate, that is, the right to live in peace and dignity in one's own country” (Message for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 3). “They took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him” (Gen 46:6). A grave famine forced Jacob and his entire family to seek refuge in Egypt, where his son Joseph ensured their survival. Persecutions, wars, atmospheric phenomena, and dire poverty are among the most visible causes of forced migrations today. Migrants flee because of poverty, fear, or desperation. Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources, and the devastation of our common home.
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). The ideal of the first Christian community seems so distant from today’s reality! To make migration a choice that is truly free, efforts must be made to ensure to everyone has an equal share in the common good, respect for his or her fundamental rights, and access to an integral human development. Only in this way will we be able to offer each person the possibility of a dignified and fulfilling life, whether individually or within families. Clearly, the principal responsibility falls to the countries of origin and their leaders, who are called to practice good politics – one that is transparent, honest, farsighted, and at the service of all, especially those most vulnerable. At the same time, they must be empowered to do this, without finding themselves robbed of their natural and human resources and without outside interference aimed at serving the interests of a few. Where circumstances make possible a decision either to migrate or to stay, there is a need to ensure that the decision is well-informed and carefully considered, in order to avoid great numbers of men, women, and children falling victim to perilous illusions or unscrupulous traffickers.
“In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property” (Lev 25:13). For the people of Israel, the celebration of the jubilee year represented an act of collective justice: “Everyone was allowed to return to their original situation, with the cancellation of all debts, restoration of the land, and an opportunity once more to enjoy the freedom proper to the members of the People of God” (Catechesis, 10 February 2016). As we approach the Holy Year of 2025, we do well to remember this aspect of the jubilee celebrations. Joint efforts are needed by individual countries and the international community to ensure that all enjoy the right not to be forced to emigrate, in other words, the chance to live in peace and with dignity in one's own country. This right has yet to be codified, but it is one of fundamental importance, and its protection must be seen as a shared responsibility on the part of all States with respect to a common good that transcends national borders. Indeed, since the world’s resources are not unlimited, the
development of economically poorer countries depends on the capacity for sharing that we can manage to generate among all countries. Until this right is guaranteed – and here we are speaking of a long process – many people will still have to emigrate in order to seek a better life. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36). These words are a constant admonition to see in the migrant not simply a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door. Consequently, even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone. The synodal path that we have undertaken as a Church leads us to see in those who are most vulnerable – among whom are many migrants and refugees – special companions on our way, to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters. Only by walking together will we be able to go far and reach the common goal of our journey.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 May 2023

Child Trafficking in Kenya.

Child trafficking happens when children and/or young people are tricked, coerced, or forced to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work, or sold. During the holiday's children become more vulnerable to abuse in ways such as child labor, Female Genital Mutilation, and Rape among other forms of abuse. Children trafficked are mostly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labor, and forced marriage. The National Council on Children’s Services (NCCS) estimates that around 17,500 Kenyans are trafficked annually for domestic work, forced labor, and commercial sexual exploitation, of which 50% are likely to be minors.


Research highlights poverty and unemployment as the main leading causes of child trafficking. Trafficked children and young people experience many types of abuse and neglect and are likely to be physically and emotionally abused and may be sexually exploited. Children and young people can be easily manipulated and coerced. Traffickers, therefore, use physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a form of control. Child traffickers prey on vulnerable children who are susceptible to being forced into the human trade.

Children and young people could be trafficked for either of the following reasons:
● Sexual exploitation
● Benefit fraud
● Forced marriage
● Domestic slavery like cleaning, cooking, and childcare
● Committing crimes like begging, moving, and selling drugs.

The recruiter(s) can be any gender, though most likely men recruit boys and women recruit girls. In most cases, the recruiters, a man or a woman is someone known to the child and/or parents (Family member or a relative, Friend, neighbor or someone the parents(s) or the child trust, Parent, Respectable individual in the society or religious leader ) member of a gang or a stranger, staff member of an employment agency or service provider

How to protect children from child trafficking

Trafficking violates human rights standards as defined by international law. Trafficked children are not only denied education and salary, but they are also physically, psychologically, and sexually exploited and exposed to harmful working conditions. Child trafficking drastically affects the child’s development, it is, therefore, paramount to ensure that as parents or guardians and other relevant stakeholders, children enjoy their rights.

Parents and guardians can protect their children from child trafficking in the following ways:
● Build and maintain a healthy relationship with their children-spend quality time together and check in often. Many victims of trafficking are vulnerable because they are lonely, depressed, and isolated. Healthy parental attachments reduce those vulnerabilities.
● Have conversations on trafficking with the children - have open conversations with the child on the dangers of trafficking and warn them about speaking and accepting free gifts from strangers. As highlighted, the recruiters are usually someone the family or the child knows, therefore teach the child to assertively say no to suspicious requests from family friends and teach them to seek permission from parents or guardians when they want to go visit their relatives.
● Be vigilant about online safety-We have witnessed cases of children who have been groomed and exploited by sexual predators and pedophiles online. As a parent and a guardian take the initiative and have parental control on sites not child-friendly and know what your child is accessing on their digital devices.

As parents or guardians spend holidays with their children, they need to protect them and uphold their rights and report any cases of child trafficking if witnessed.

To report any cases of human trafficking in and/or outside of Kenya, reach out to us at or
Call any of the following numbers:
Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA) - +254 701 339 204
Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT) - toll-free – 0800 721 361
Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – toll-free – 0800 722 203
ChildLine – toll fee – 116
Gender-Based Violence - 1195
Police – 999 and 112

Human Trafficking in Tanzania.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. Forced labor, sexual exploitation, and debt bondage are the most common reasons for this crime. Human trafficking happens in every country, even developed ones like the United States. Trafficking is modern-day slavery and affects women and girls disproportionately. About 71 % of Human Trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls.

 Status of Human Trafficking In Tanzania

Tanzania  is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour  and sexual exploitation. Boys are trafficked within the country for forced labour on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Tanzanian girls from rural areas are trafficked to urban centres and the island of  Zanzibar  for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; some domestic workers fleeing abusive employers fall prey to forced prostitution.Tanzanian children and adults are reportedly trafficked to other countries including Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy and China. Trafficked children from Burundi and Kenya, as well as adults from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Yemen, are trafficked for forced labour in Tanzania's mining, agricultural and domestic service sectors, and are sometimes also subjected to sex trafficking.


Forms of Human Trafficking in Tanzania.

Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Tanzania, and traffickers exploit victims from Tanzania abroad. Traffickers exploit men, women, children, and individuals from underserved communities—particularly impoverished children, orphans, and children with disabilities from rural areas—in forced labour in domestic work, mining, agriculture, and forced begging and in sex trafficking in urban cities, such as Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Mbeya, and Mwanza. Traffickers may exploit children in sex trafficking, including child sex tourism, in Zanzibar. Traffickers and brokers often fraudulently promise family members, friends, or intermediaries to provide their children with education, better living conditions, or employment, but instead they exploit them in forced labour and sex trafficking. Some unscrupulous individuals manipulate the traditional practice of child fostering—in which parents entrust their children into the care of wealthier relatives or respected community members—and exploit children in domestic servitude. Traffickers often promise Tanzanian women and girls marriage, education, or employment in Zanzibar, facilitate their travel from the mainland, and subsequently exploit them in forced labor in domestic work and farming.

Efforts against Human Trafficking in Tanzania

According to the 2022 Trafficking in persons Report on Tanzania by the US Department of State, Tanzania is classified as a Tier 2 country, that is the Government of Tanzania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. Some of the efforts include the government of Tanzania has fully established and allocated funds for the Anti-Trafficking funds and allocating more funds for anti-trafficking programs led by the Anti-Trafficking Secretariat.

However, Tanzania’s recent efforts have been disappointing compared to those of previous years. Charges and punishments have remained light for traffickers compared to perpetrators of other major crimes. Many traffickers are not convicted, and if they are, their punishments are fines and short prison sentences. The country has not implemented victim identification or protection programs, leaving victims vulnerable to further exploitation. Tanzania has also made no recent efforts toward investigating fraudulent labor groups or commercial sex acts.

Hope for the future

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act involves many measures to protect victims with the support of trained workers. Trained workers will be able to identify the country’s more vulnerable populations, including orphans and impoverished children. In line with a Tanzanian anti-trafficking law from 2008, identified victims of human trafficking in Tanzania also receive professional counseling and a place to stay for the period immediately after their escape from a trafficking situation.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act also involves more investigation of traffickers and corrupt systems. It will increase the likelihood of proper punishment for traffickers and will replace small fines with larger penalties befitting the seriousness of the crime. Tanzania saw great improvements in its trafficking situation before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, giving hope for the upcoming reporting periods.


A Woman of extraordinary courage.


A lady called ‘Ruth’ came to me in May, 2013, I was at the close of a small project to rescue 40 women who were victims of Human Trafficking (one male was in the group, he went on to do well selling secondhand shoes).  At that stage my resources were appallingly low but still I asked the question ‘What would help you now’?  She said “if I had another flask, I could make more tea for the men in the evening” The poverty of her statement gripped me like a choke on my throat.  She was referring to the men going on night duty as security guards.

I enquired to know a little more of her story?  “My husband just walked out of our marriage, it was a heavy blow to take” I could see she was profoundly depressed.  “Imagine just then, my best friend suggested she could get me a great job in Mombasa, it sounded good.  I left my three children with my mother, I knew I would be able to send her money home to feed them”

Amid copious tears she told me “I was plunged into a highly secure brothel (it traded as gym & massage), we were 11 women and each of us ‘serviced’ more than ten men in each 24/7period’ There seemed to be no escape route at all, I became dead inside After eight months, one man there, we called him Mr. Ali (but he was an Italian) told me to pack my bags for 6pm. I was ready with one small plastic bag, it was all I had.  He drove dangerously through a maze of small narrow streets and I was scared – my mind raced to my children and my mother.  Till that moment none of us were ever given a single coin that I could send home.  Suddenly we were surrounded by robbers and he was hauled out – it was my moment to escape.  I just ran faster and faster, suddenly I stopped and I realized I was free.  I knew that only God could do such a miracle”.

 My Escape

My only thoughts were: how can I get to my children in Mukuru (2nd largest slum in Nairobi).  I waved down one ‘matatu’ (local transport), please, please, help me to reach the Nairobi bus station and he just waved to me, “it’s just past those lights, turn right” But I had no fare, I just pleaded and begged the ticket man and he said give me KShs  600/-  I had nothing, but a kind man in the queue behind me paid it.  “That was the second miracle in less than an hour” I was on my way and reached home next morning.  When I saw my children I knew immediately that they were malnourished”.  Then my mother handed me a note from the class teacher. I opened and read it, “Your children are sleeping in class, please come and explain yourself” I knew that they were sleeping due to malnutrition.

‘Ruth’ did her utmost to make her hot tea business a success and she had paid a small deposit towards school fees of her eldest daughter.  But she could not afford any text books to keep the girl in Form One secondary school.  As I learned later she had many struggles and worst of all was a persistent cough, I prevailed on her to visit a clinic.  She stayed in a corner at the back during the next time I was meeting with this amazing group of victims.  She waited for me and as she approached she just blurted out ‘Habari sio nzuri’ it meant the news is not good.  Ruth had just learned that she was HIV positive and worse still they were testing her for TB.  It felt like ‘the end of the road’ for this brave woman.   I received this terrible news with a determination that her bravery would not be in vain.

We did a lot of ‘walking together’ for a long time.  A seed was sown in my heart and unbelievably one brave woman from my parish had sent a donation to Medical Missionaries of Mary for Christmas for my work.  This was now the third miracle for Ruth.  I could not wait to share my Joy with a woman who was courageous beyond words. From that moment onwards I knew that faith and hope would see ‘Mwende’ through her secondary education.  A long Hug held both of us together in a ‘Mary & Elizabeth’ embrace. I knew very deeply now that my ministry of Healing was enchained to the ancient faith of Islam.  We remained locked in awe at this infusion of Joy.  For me Jesus and Allah were one as time stood still and in that moment my mission and ministry was reborn in a new and deeper way.  It was a moment of standing on the threshold of eternity, I knew that no matter the cost - nothing and nobody could hold me back from this pursuit of Rescue, Restoration, Reintegration and Repatriation of Victims no matter when or where I would meet them.


‘Mwende’ came top of her class with a B+ in her Form Four year.  In October, 2022, this young woman graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Counseling Psychology.  She is now in her first job and in a position to educate three younger siblings.

 Sr. Mary O’ Malley, MMM

Christian and Muslim Reflection.

Muslims around the world have welcomed Ramadan (in March), a full month of fasting, increased worship, heightened charity, good deeds, and community life. Christians as well are also fasting during this Lenten period, (the 40-day period of penance and prayer) ahead of Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The fast for both faiths help believers to purify their souls, renew their faith, seek forgiveness, and increase self-discipline within the tenets of our Supreme God. It is also a time to re-focus on what is most important and positive virtues in  believers’ lives.

However, even as we share and observe this holy season collectively, some of our fellow brothers and sisters who are/were victims of human trafficking still face challenges with reintegration due to stigma and the aftermath of abuse. Human trafficking (also known as Trafficking In Persons) is the trade of humans for forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the benefit of the trafficker. Everyone, particularly women and girls are at the risk of being victims of Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking, in any form is prohibited and condemned in both Christianity and Islam for the sole reason of violating human rights and the dignity of victims/survivors. 

CHTEA therefore makes a passionate call to action for both Christian and Muslim Faithfuls to rededicate themselves during this HOLY period, to take up the initiative of advocacy and speak up against any form of human trafficking and to support survivors of human trafficking as well as report any cases of human trafficking at their jurisdictions.

To report any cases of human trafficking in and/or outside of Kenya, you can reach out to us on or

Call any of the following numbers:

Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA) - +254701339204

Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT) - toll free 0800721361

Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – toll free 0800722203

Child Line – toll fee 116

Gender Based Violence - 1195

Forum for Women (FODDJ) +25411350768

Police 999 and 112

In case you are within the East African region (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo), feel free to share any emergency reporting lines which exist in your own countries (State or Non-State) so that we can make them a permanent feature in our monthly newsletter for public use.

Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA) wishes you and your loved ones a happy and bountiful Easter and Ramadan Seasons ahead.


Amina’s Story-The Life After

Amina* was trafficked to Saudi in 2011 and fell out with her employer the same year after experiencing a lot of abuses such as physical assault, repeated rape ordeals, extreme overworking, and confiscation of her travel documents and mobile phone. Before leaving Kenya, Amina* had been promised a monthly salary of $250 but unfortunately, wasn't paid anything during the time she was working. The employer had a household of up to 10 members and most of them were grown-up men (either children or relatives). She was further forced to work at other apartments that they visited over the weekends at no pay.

Amina* hardly had time to rest. She worked for at least 18 hours a day hence, she became sick. The only medication given to her was painkillers and this did not help clear the infection. Her health deteriorated while she was being forced to work without a break or any proper treatment. She feared she would die if she did nothing about her situation.

 One early morning, when her bosses had left for work, Amina pretended to be going to throw waste at the garbage bin outside the gate. She then ran as fast as her legs could take her until she was intercepted by a police van which took her to a detention camp. At the camp, she was detained for three years incommunicado. Her case was eventually processed after a jail term and one evening, she was whisked to the airport and deported back to Kenya without any evidence to show that she had worked since leaving the country. She arrived in August 2021 and CHTEA received her at the office in October, of the same year.

 Amina* is a mother of four beautiful children (three boys and one girl). After her return, CHTEA supported Amina in settling down. At the shelter, she received psychosocial support sessions and was later assisted to set up an income-generating activity in Rift Valley for financial sustainability. Before getting on her feet CHTEA supported Amina * with the secondary education of the two older boys. 

Amina* now runs a small business, in Rift Valley as in the picture below and we are proud of her hard work and resilience.Amina* can now comfortably support her family.

Thank you for your generous and continued support. Your support  enables  us to restore lives and dignity for other victims of Human Trafficking like Amina * 

*Amina is not her real name

The enormity of crucifixion

Even without a second glance, the enormity of crucifixion was written large on her pale face.  My hands grew limp as I tried to make cursory notes on her story – it oozed with pain and heartache.  Even with long years of experience in this work nothing could have prepared me for the enormity of her pain.  Remembering her story later, I recalled that at 25 years old, I had just completed my Nursing finals in Ireland.  I knew we were poles apart, compared to her experience of life.  Yet I felt grateful that God drew me to walk closely with the most abused and degraded of these young women.  

‘Emily’ was facing enormous challenges back at home due to high levels of poverty in her family, so, she decided to seek ‘greener’ pastures in Nairobi. While working in a low-end hotel with a fellow tribe’s woman as her immediate boss, she was told that now she must also be available to give sex services to the men who frequented the hotel and bar on a 24/7 basis.  “Just imagine we were 7 girls on the night shift and only 3 working during the daylight hours.  Copious tears flowed down her pale cheeks as she told me that most clients came in the night hours and the majority wanted a girl to help them relax.  Emily knew she had no choice, but what was the way out?  She looked at me with a pleading look in her eyes and said: “it was Hell – pure hell, all the time” Just then a friend introduced her to an agent who offered her a promising job in Lebanon and working in a good environment.  She thought to herself ‘this is surely an answer to ‘my prayer’.  My mother “always encouraged me to be strong and get the best paying job I could find.” Emily knew that “if I could earn a better wage it would help her to raise school fees for her younger siblings”

Going up to Jerusalem

Nine times in the Gospels Jesus told his disciples “Now we are going up to Jerusalem” he knew that crucifixion and death awaited him there. These men (and women) who had pledged their lives to Jesus could never grasp that such a fate awaited him.  ‘Emily’ had all these elements of crucifixion await her in Beirut.   In the first brief employment period, she was extremely overworked (not less than a twenty-hour day).  The female boss had her work in her mother’s residence also – by all accounts she was a ruthless slave driver who forced Emily to eat from the plates she scraped for washing up but it was never enough.  She went on to tell me “my skirt was falling off me and even my periods stopped due to the extreme stress I was under” (I nodded in agreement).  Then she revealed to me what stressed her most was the ‘boss himself’ after going out to work in the morning with his wife, he would later return to the house and rape Emily.  This continued day-after-day-after-day, there seemed to be no end in sight.  As I reflected more on her situation, I thought of Jesus on his way to Calvary, did he feel ‘no end in sight also’?  This was surely his mental and physical state before the Roman soldiers enlisted the help of Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.  They wanted to have the satisfaction of actually driving the nails into his hands and feet, then raise him high as a common criminal.  

The Dangerous Escape

She contacted her agent who advised her to escape. The agent did not offer her even one cent to recover.  She did this one morning when the garbage bin came to the gate. It was a very scary experience to find herself on the streets of Beirut – a young woman, black, with no security, money or passport.  Her sense of fear was heighted and then came the night when all manner of thugs were literally loose on the streets.  Her worst terrible nightmare was confounded following a gang rape.  She wandered into a supermarket and met a Kenyan lady who explained her own dilemma too, so they both went to sleep outside the Kenyan embassy.  This was not an ideal arrangement but she was happy to have companionship.  During the time she related her story, I thought to myself this can only be crucifixion.  

A Matter of Survival

Shortly afterwards, she was to discover that these Kenyan women who supported each other and had babies with Lebanese men were either raped or relieved each other to take turns in prostitution (to secure an income).  With this arrangement one of them usually stayed at home (in their one rented room) to take care of the babies.  A little later, Emily realized that she too was pregnant, she was completely gutted but also amazed by the manner in which these women supported each other in what was a very bleak outlook and probably the worst time in their lives. Emily was forced to consider many questions: should she arrive home with a Lebanese baby or arrive home and deliver her baby as a Kenyan citizen.  She choose the latter and broke the news gently to her mother who was very supportive.  She now enjoys the kind of support we offer to these woman.  With our WhatsApp support group (of over 300) they offer tremendous courage and understanding to each other.  They finally resurrect from the ashes of their experiences and go on to make the best use of their self-help efforts. 

At the outset of all the hurdles they have to face, we provide psychosocial and financial support and in any way we can help them to make a complete turnaround from despair to hope and the opportunity to get their lives back on track.  I asked one woman who had severe PTSD how she is feeling now? Her reply came quickly “now instead of hitting the children all the time, I find I am beginning to enjoy them” I knew then that Resurrection had entered her life despite all the pain endured in the days of crucifixion.

Mary O’ Malley, MMM

2nd April, 2023


Santa Marta Group- Africa Regional 2023 Conference on combating organ harvesting and trafficking.

The 2023 annual Santa Marta Group -Africa Regional conference was recently delivered through an online platform. The conference ran through 16th and 17th March. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Organ harvesting and trafficking; and its effects on the African Society”. 

Owing to the increased cases of organ harvesting and trafficking across the African continent, the theme resonated perfectly with the present time dynamics in the human trafficking context. In our previous editions of the newsletter, we ran various reports and stories about organ harvesting in various parts of Africa. Such stories included the Albino targeted killings (for organ removals) in parts of East and Southern Africa, the discrete movement of targeted organ harvesting victims to Europe from West Africa and the organ harvesting activities targeting African migrants in the Middle East.

Organ harvesting and trafficking is a form of modern slavery that refers to a range of criminal activities, including illegal organ harvesting from living or dead individuals and the unlawful sale and/or transplantation of human organs. Organ transplants are becoming increasingly commonplace. This is due to several reasons such as safer transplant procedures; better post-transplant management among others. 

However, this increasing demand is not matched by a similar surge in supply. Consequently, through desperation, many sick individuals are turning to the black market to source their organs, facilitating a hotbed of criminal activity. Forced organ harvesting is a dangerous and illegal practice globally.

 The SMG-Africa Regional conference aimed to address the following:

  1. Understand the dynamics and raise awareness on Organ Trafficking and Organ harvesting as a form of Human trafficking 
  2. Recognize the diplomatic community's role in addressing victims' needs. 
  3. Increase engagement with all partners to mitigate human trafficking and smuggling.

To achieve the conference objectives, the following were some of the conference outcomes:

  1. The SMG-Africa will work with other institutions, such as the government, the media, and Counter Human Trafficking organizations to intensify awareness and capacity-building on skills to counter the dynamic tactics of traffickers
  2. SMG-Africa to hold campaigns to call governments to implement conventions to end slavery and append their signatures and ratify international instruments and treaties.
  3. SMG-Africa to engage in  law-making process at all levels that will enact laws to protect victims and ensure prosecution for offenders. A need to lay hefty penalties for agents of Human Trafficking
  4. SMG-Africa to encourage Catholic Social Teaching through pastoral orientations to empower agents and restore the ethical principle of organ donation as a genuine testament of charity and love received in gratitude.
  5. SMG-Africa to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to champion for counter Human Trafficking teachings to be integrated into the curriculum of the learning institutions, especially beginning with Catholic-sponsored institutions.

On the heels of the conference, the UK media report the case of Nigerian Senator and his accomplices who were found guilty of trafficking a 21-year-old street trader to the UK to provide a kidney for the Senator’s daughter. This is just one of the many cases that came to light thanks to the keen medics who worked closely with the victim to unearth the matter and give it to the UK police. This scenario, therefore, underpins the need for collaborative support from different stakeholders to combat organ trafficking and organ harvesting and save lives as well as cut the business feed to the merchants of doom.

You can view the media report below

What can i bring?

The wounded face of Christ pleads with me – what does it say?  How can I minister in this broken space of human life?  He speaks “Remain in my love” Jn 15: 9.  I know I can’t give it out unless I am ready to be broken as bread for the world.

God is tortured, sin abounds – victims of Human Trafficking are treated as slaves – used and abused.  Innocence is destroyed if only we can prevent it.  Poverty reaches back into the deepest recesses of our remote areas to the most appalling slums on earth and certainly in Africa.  Our capital city (Nairobi) in Kenya is a fermented mix of the slum poor struggling to survive on Euro 1. Per day.  In such an environment the poorest ones are prone to grasp at any small hope of survival, the ‘push’ factors drive them on relentlessly.  The logic which makes sense to them is reasoned thus ‘surely going on a flight to the Middle East can only bode of something worthwhile’  

The Bitter Reality

Sadly, in less than a twenty-four hour period of departure from the International airport, the outcome turns extremely bitter and very cruel.  Passports and phones are confiscated on arrival by the bosses of the intended place of employment. There are no options given. ‘Julie’ is effectively stripped of her freedom and she becomes the ‘property’ of others.  She is in a foreign land but who cares?   With no salary, Arabic, phone, or passport she is merely a utility in a house of strangers.

As I watch her sorry state, I secretly pray, let the waters of life gush over this poor one who is God’s daughter.  The way ahead is clearer now – what can it mean to take up the task of Rescue, Restore, Rehabilitate, Reintegrate, and Repatriate? I become the privileged one to pour out the nard of God’s love on such troubled souls. Now, I feel a new strength to return to the fray of frontline mission and through God’s power I am ever ready to minister, smile, listen, and hold hands of praise and care.  I adore and praise God who has led me along this way of being a Medical Missionary of Mary, (MMM).

It is an aura of a sense of God’s Holy Ground, where I stand now and accept to go forward to the end along a road that is ever more uncertain and to horizons infinitely more and more drowned in mist.

Mary O’Malley, MM