Survivor Story: Safe and home at last.

Ann * is a single mother of two beautiful teen girls -Milka and Nelly*. Ann is a graduate in banking, she was working as a clear in one of the best banks in Kenya. In 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a massive lay off of workers, unfortunately this axe fell on Ann as well. She lost her job. In order to survive, Ann engaged herself in manual jobs to fend for her kids. However, this was hardly enough to meet her needs. Pressed with the tough economic situation, she met a friend who told her about opportunities abroad.

At first, Ann was skeptical because of the stories she had heard of the harassment and mistreatment of Kenyan ladies who got greener pastures in the gulf region. She later agreed to the offer of going to work in Lebanon. Since Lebanon is a mix of both Christians and Muslims, she was convinced and hopeful that things would be better.

In October 20, 2021, Ann started the process and she was recruited with the help of a recruiting agency and she went for domestic work training which took three months as the agent was processing her documentation.

Eventually, Ann found herself in Saudi Arabia travelling through Dubai on February 27, 2022 and not in Lebanon as she had initially thought. However, it was too late to go back. On getting to the airport, Ann was transported to the agency office, where her receiver picked her up and transported her to the would-be employer.

On reaching the house, Ann was welcomed by the boss's daughter. The daughter informed her that her mother, who was to be her boss, had been admitted to hospital even though she later returned home after 3 weeks upon discharge.

During the first month, Ann was treated well. She was allowed to keep her documents and phone. After the first month, all hell broke loose. Ann was denied food and was overworked. She was forced to work for more than twelve hours and she could only sleep when her boss was asleep. Ann opted to call her agency to ask for a transfer to a different employer. After a week, the agency spoke with her employer who promised to change her ways but this only last for 3 months.

After six months, the employer confiscated her phone and all her personal documents. At this point, the employer denied Ann food. ‘I could go for 72 hours without food, ’Ann says. The employer threatened to kill her so many times and also physically assaulted her, that left many visible scars on Ann’s body.

At one point, Ann was beaten until she collapsed. When she woke up, there was nobody in the house and the gate was wide open, so she escaped. Unfortunately, even before she could go far, police vehicles surrounded her and she was forcefully taken back to the same house. At this point, the employer burned her with a metal box. She displays the burning scar on her hand with great regret; “I wish I had listened to a number of people who had advised me against going to the Gulf countries”.

On one eventful day and due to exhaustion, starvation and long working hours, Ann collapsed while she was working. The employer fearing for the worst, took her to hospital and abandoned her there. When she got better and through the help of the hospital staff, Ann reached out to the police who contacted her agency. The police promised to ensure that Ann would get paid for the one year she had worked without pay. This however, never happened.

The law enforcers worked together with her agency and in August, Ann was deported to Kenya with nothing except the clothes she had on herself. In as much as she didn’t bring anything back home Ann says she is happy and glad that she is back home.

*Ann is not her real name

World Day Against Human Trafficking 2023.

R-L Cabinet Secretary, Florence Bore and Permanent Secretary, Joseph Motari launching the National Plan of Action in Combatting Trafficking In Persons; 2022-2027

The annual World Day Against Human Trafficking (30th July) is globally commemorated to raise awareness and share new developments about Trafficking in Persons and support to the victims/survivors. This year’s theme was, ‘Reach out to every Victim, Leave No One behind’. In Kenya, the event was held on 28th July at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. The event was punctuated with speeches and survivor voices were amplified in the presence of a huge audience led by the Cabinet Secretary (CS) from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and representatives from the UN Agencies led by the UNODC, IOM/UN Migration, and Civil Society Organisations (both national and international) among others to mark the event.

The event was graced by Hon. Florence Bore, the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Labour and Social Protection who was the chief guest assisted by the Principal Secretary (PS), Mr. Joseph Motari;,among other dignitaries.

On the day’s program, there were other stakeholder representatives who made their speeches highlighting the need for Civil Society to coordinate their efforts and work together towards combating human trafficking and developing victim-centered programs to support the Victims and survivors. Most speeches also emphasized on the need for victims and survivors to embrace psychosocial support and appeals for the society to accept the survivors for complete reintegration.

One of the survivors, a returnee from Lebanon, Ms. Mercy Njeru who was representing the survivors made a presentation and encouraged the government and other stakeholders to invest more in the National Assistance Fund to assist more victims, offer them psychosocial support and also further urged the government to ensure the service providers at the Kenyan embassies in the gulf region are well trained and equipped to support the victims of trafficking in distress when they visit their offices

L-R Sr Florence, Member of Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) Advisory Committee and Board member at CHTEA, PS Motari, CS Bore, Ms Veronica -Chair, CTIP Advisory Committee and other CTIP Advisory committee members posing for a group photo during the WDAHT, 2023 Commemoration at the Sarova Stanley Hotel, Nairobi.

The Cabinet Secretary delivered her speech which emphasized on the significance of the day. She highlighted Kenya's commitment to combating trafficking in persons and further noted that Kenya had been identified as a country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking. She noted that the country was affected by trafficking in persons; with labor and sexual exploitation being the most prevalent forms. She also mentioned that the government had taken several measures to address the vice such as ratifying the UN Palermo Protocol and establishing the Counter Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee and the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking. On his part, Mr Joseph Motari, the Principal Secretary stressed the importance of a multi-sectoral approach to tackle trafficking while focusing on prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships. The State Department for Labor and Social Protection later launched the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons; 2022-2027, which outlines strategies for comprehensive victim-centered support. After the launch, the CS held a press briefing and everyone walked to the market place where CSOs got an opportunity to showcase their activities, efforts and projects in combating Human Trafficking to the attendees.

On her part, while marking the WDAHT, CHTEA in collaboration with the media carried out several interviews as build up activities highlighting the challenges faced by victims/survivors and to make a call to the government and relevant stakeholders to have victim-centered and inclusive programs to support them.

Here are the interviews conducted, click the links to view.

  1. Kenya's Pastor 'miracle baby' acquitted - also features CHTEA interview with Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) Media
  2. Stop Human Trafficking - also features CHTEA interview with Voice Of America

In line with creating awareness on Human Trafficking and highlighting changes in eliminating modern slavery, Mr Mutuku, CEO Counter Human Trafficking Trust was interviewed by People Daily and this what his contribution was in regards to breaking taboo around human trafficking crime..


Survivor Story : Greener pastures turned dry.

Everyone wishes for a good life for their family and children and when an opportunity for greener pasture comes about, we all run quick for it. This was the case with Mary (not her real name).

Mary is a single mother of four boys aged 16, 12, 9 and 6 years, living with her grandmother but was facing a lot of challenges, she had lost her job and the occasional ‘mama fua’ jobs were not enough to cater for her daily needs. She sought advice from her aunt who introduced her to a recruiting agent. She travelled with the aunt from her rural home to Nairobi to meet the agent and then she went for a two weeks’ training at Githurai. The agent assisted her to get travel documents and in no time she was ready to travel to Saudi Arabia.

When Mary arrived in Saudi Arabia, she was received by her employer at the airport and she was taken to the residence where she was employed as a domestic worker. The family consisted of five members including three sons of the employer. She was introduced to the family and later given instructions to abide by. After one month, the employer who was the lady travelled unexpectedly.

Mary was left alone with the three sons of the man of the house who started harassing her sexually. “I was sexually assaulted and physically abused by the three men for a period of nine months. At one point, I was seriously beaten up and left for the dead for not giving in to their demands. I could not even pick myself up from where they had left lying for five days,” lamented Mary.

When the men realised that she could not to stand still by herself, they decided to throw her out of the house, a far distance from the gate. Mary was later picked up from the roadside by a good Samaritan who helped her get to nearest Red Cross office. The Red Cross took her to their shelter where she found other girls who had been rescued too. She stayed there for two months before she was later escorted to the airport alongside 6 other Kenyan girls. Mary says she that could not even tell who paid for her ticket but happy that it was by God’s grace that she was rescued. Mary and the other 6 girls were given some little money to use for their onward transport costs home after arriving in Kenya.

When Mary arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, she took a bus to Thika and upon arrival, she lost her consciousness and was rushed to Thika level 5 hospital. Mary was admitted at the hospital for one month and she was later discharged.

CHTEA supported Mary with medical support and psycho-social support since she had suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder and due to the extreme physical abuse that she got in Saudi Arabia. Mary sustained a broken limb. CHTEA also supported her to start up her hair dressing business (salon) since she was already a skilled hairdresser.

We are happy through the economic empowerment program; Mary can now financially support her children and her family at large.

Stigma: The Case of rejection.

‘It was not easy, starting all over again. It was not easy then, but I have overcome things like that. All is not well, but I am proud of the progress I have made and knowing I can support my son.’

Prisca * starts her day at 4am every day. She prepares her children for school and herself for the day. At 4.30am, she is picked up by her driver of public transport in Nairobi (“matatu” – mini bus). She starts calling people to board the matatu from South B to Nairobi town. She gets to town and joins the other matatus waiting in line to take passengers back to South B. This goes on until 11pm at night when she goes to rest and prepare for the following day.

Before Prisca became a matatu tout, she was determined to leave the country for the gulf countries to seek for greener pastures. She met an ‘agent’ through her aunt who promised to help her get a well-paying administrator job in Saudi Arabia. She didn’t have any travel documents but the agent assisted her get her passport and visa and in less than 2 weeks. She was ready to travel. It was the first time for Prisca to travel by an aeroplane. She arrived late at the airport which angered the agent, who threw the documents at her and drove off. An airport attendant seeing her in despair, guided her through the airport process. She boarded the plane and was finally in Saudi Arabia. She was picked up by her employer at the airport. Before leaving the airport, she had to go through medical tests and the same tests were repeated at her employer’s place. Working in Saudi for her was a real challenge as she worked for long working hours with little or no food for days. She was physically and verbally abused. Amidst all this, Prisca was able to save some money ‘under her mattress’ since was told that the banking policy in Saudi Arabia did not support opening a bank account for foreigners.

After working for 2 years, Prisca couldn’t take the harassment any more. Seeing her life in danger, she escaped and went to the Kenyan embassy who helped her get a ticket for her trip back to Kenya. On arrival at the airport, none of her family members came to pick her up. Upon arriving home, no one was happy to see her back. Her siblings and parents were angry at her and kept asking her why she had come back empty handed. The whole neighborhood resented her. This adversely affected her psychologically especially after realizing that the people who are supposed to be her safe space were rejecting her.

Sadly, this is what most victims of trafficking in persons go through when they are confronted by a hostile environment. The societal stigma makes reintegration with family a tricky issue. Survivors continue to suffer from trauma of being disowned by their family and society for failing to return with the promised life changing fortunes (some of it meant to refund borrowed funds). This in the end makes them vulnerable of re-trafficking.

In most cases, families of the victims of human trafficking have no or limited knowledge about human trafficking and the risks abound. This therefore makes it difficult for them to understand the victims’ challenges. Victims go through many challenges in the hands of their former employers such starvation, long working hours, verbal, physical and sexual assault, murder threats and at the end of the month their salary is not paid.

While dealing with victims of human trafficking, the least they need is our collective support so that they can feel valued and loved by their closest kin. Their safe spaces including their families are of cardinal importance if long term healing is to take place. Access to psychosocial support, economic empowerment and medical care (if need be) is of essence. So, the next time someone comes back to the country while in distress, do not despise them, but instead be empathetic with them, be ready to support them. They are humans too, let us join hands to restore and preserve their dignity.

Shelter: Safe haven or prison?


One of the first steps to be taken by victims wishing to escape from the control of traffickers is to find a safe and secure refuge. Despite the prospect of continued abuse, many victims choose to stay because leaving can attract more danger and greater vulnerability. The lack of a safe and secure refuge often results in the victims’ return to their abusers after an initial escape, because of the fear of violence and the intimidation they are subjected to. It is therefore critical that real and practical options for their safety and security (in both the short and long term and in both the country of destination and that of origin) are made available to victims of trafficking.

Shelter homes are a form of protection and a most common form of emergency assistance available to trafficked persons in Kenya and many other countries. Shelter homes offer a safe and protected environment for Victims of Trafficking (VoT) in which they can begin their recovery and access a range of services such as accommodation, legal, medical, and psychosocial aid in a one stop shop fashion.

Types of Shelters

VoTs have short term and long term needs for a safe shelter. The nature of the shelter they need varies from one type to another. Some shelters offer comprehensive care services starting with supporting rescue efforts to reintegrating survivors. Shelters are classified in the following categories:

  1. Immediate, safe and short-term shelter

This type of shelter offers the victim a protected and secure environment for a short period of time. In these shelters, the victim is protected from harm from the trafficker and has access to immediate short-term assistance, this may include, medical, attention, legal information, psychosocial support.

  1. Temporary Shelter

Shelters in the state to which the victims are returning will often need to provide some support to facilitate the rehabilitation process and the victims’ reintegration in their families or communities. Without the protection of the shelter and the interim assistance it can provide, victims may be at risk of further harassment, or revictimization.

  1. Transitional Shelters

These types of shelters provide accommodation where victims can stay without fear of unwanted interference for a period of time while they recover from their ordeals and find some new direction for their lives. The essential elements of these shelters are a supportive environment, the provision of information about available services and access to community facilities and services. When victims are not faced with imminent deportation or repatriation, less institutionalized forms of shelter may be appropriate.

Staying at the Shelter in harmony: The CHTEA Experience

Every month, the CHTEA Transit Survivor Support Centre (Shelter) admits VoTs from different countries and walks with them until they are reintegrated back into their communities or until they repatriated back to their countries of origin.

At the shelter, CHTEA offers comprehensive care services that include but are not limited to accommodation, psycho-social support, medical care, family tracing and reintegration. Hosting VoTs has its own challenges as well, because sometimes foreign nationals may experience culture shock with respect to language barrier, food choices and the lengthy legal process to repatriate them among other challenges. Amidst all these challenges however, CHTEA supports the victims to the furthest possible ends while ensuring their safe return and reunion with their families.

The CHTEA experience in shelter management and supporting of VoTs/ survivors of human trafficking has come with a lot of lesson learning. This experience has provided a perfect opportunity for smooth and seamless repatriation process where survivors are encouraged to be patient with the procedures of case management. The Centre has some basic rules and regulations meant to govern the residential stay environment. Survivors sign against these guidelines as a commitment to fully cooperate with the shelter management and other survivors.  All potential shelter beneficiaries are normally processed from the office before they are moved to the shelter. At the office, they are screened and their needs identified and a dummy file presented at the shelter for further action/follow up.

As for CHTEA, it is paramount to be well informed about the survivors before admission and have a clear guideline and schedule of activities or routine for the survivors while at the shelter.

CHTEA also ensures the safety of the survivors as well as the staff. The staff are well trained in order to carry out their duties both efficiently and effectively; a skill which makes the survivors feel safe and protected as they wait to be reintegrated or repatriated.

Survivor Stories : Trapped by a false employment opportunity abroad.

Lali* is a 19-year-old young lady of Ugandan origin, the last born in a family of seven, she comes from a family where the mother is a widow and not financially stable. The mum could not support her schooling, she therefore dropped out of school while in form 2. Lali* always wished for an opportunity to get out of her country of origin for work to be able to support her family. Not long after, a friend called Peter * came visiting at her town of Mbale, Uganda in search of land to buy. The friend then met Lali* and shared with her about the lucrative and well-paying cleaner job in Nairobi, Kenya. This was a dream come true for Lali*. To add icing to the cake, the person would cater for her transport to get her from Mbale in Uganda to Nairobi.

On her way to Nairobi, Lali* was in the company of her 2-year-old niece, Blessing*. Lali* narrates that she did not have any travel documents, once they got to the border, they were advised to alight and cross the border on foot. Lali* obliged and her journey continued until she was in Nairobi. Once in Nairobi, Peter*, came to pick her up. Lali* was later taken to a place she would call home. She stayed with Peter* for 2 days and enquired about the job that she had been promised. To Lali’s* disbelief, there was no cleaner job that she would be posted to. Instead, she was to remain in the house and help with the house chores. Lali* says Peter* had told her he had a large 2-bedroom house, where they could both fit, she was shocked to find out that the house was a small tin-made single room in which she was expected to share with Peter * and her 2-year-old niece.

After staying for one week, Lali* could not take it anymore and she insisted to get the job she had been promised, but Peter* told her point blank that there was no job. That he had taken her in to be his wife instead. That is when Lali’s* problems started, she tried to resist this, but she realized that her life was in danger. If she refused to act according to Peter’s* orders, she would be mistreated or even handed over to police with concocted charges as an irregular migrant.

Lali* persevered staying with Peter* for 3 months during which period, she was denied medical treatment, denied food, raped, insulted, physically assaulted and her life threatened. On one occasion, Lali* was physically assaulted and was badly hurt. The incident raised a concern from neighbors regarding Lali’s* life. They came to her rescue and reported the case to the local chief who linked them up with a social justice center, which ensured Lali* was moved to a safer accommodation.

After her rescue and case assessment, Lali* was later transferred to a safe shelter, where she got medical help, psychosocial support, and accommodation. CHTEA, in partnership with the Ugandan Embassy in Kenya and the Religious Against Human Trafficking network we successfully helped Lali* reunite with her family back in Uganda and gave her a chance to fulfill her dream of going back to school.


Children voices in Human Trafficking.

Every year, the world commemorates World Day Against Human Trafficking (WDAHT). This day is set aside to raise awareness about human trafficking and to promote and protect the rights of trafficking victims. We can specify trafficking in three elements:  the act, the means and the purpose. What is done, how it’s done and why it’s done.

Traffickers deceive, coerce, threaten, abuse power and use force — the means and methods — to recruit, move, receive, shelter and maintain control of their victims, for the express purpose of exploiting them.

Exploitation includes, but is not limited to, the prostitution of others for sex, forced Labor or services, slavery or similar practices, servitude, or the removal of organs. Sex trafficking and forced Labor are the most notorious types of trafficking, but trafficking has other forms as well. Victims are also trafficked and exploited for benefit, fraud, as beggars, for forced or sham marriages, in pornography production and for organ removal. These other forms of trafficking are under-reported, do not receive as much public attention and contribute to the widely-held perception "trafficking doesn’t happen where I live."

Sadly, human trafficking is a global crisis. Trafficking in persons affects nearly every country in the world; no country is immune. The victims of trafficking are building our homes, cleaning our houses, processing our food and making our clothes. They are in our lives.

Amidst all this, sometimes children are forgotten. Child trafficking has become rampant and is not talked about most of the time. Most of these children are trafficked and exploited for begging, cheap labor, transporting of illegal merchandise, for pornography or forced child marriages.

In most cases, the perpetrators are well known by the guardians/parents/families of the children. The traffickers mostly approach families who are poor, are struggling financially to support their children. They convince the parents to give them their children, promising they will take them to school and give them a good life. Sadly, once the kids have been taken way, they are mistreated instead by the perpetrators for child labor, sexual abuse, prostitution among others.

By the virtue of the fact that the victims are children, they cannot give consent to anything and are therefore vulnerable to abuse. They are also naïve to report any of these incidents or they don’t even know where to report these cases because they are far away from home. Sometimes they are afraid of reporting the cases because this would mean thorough punishment which takes different forms such as thorough beating, starvation and harsh traumatizing treatments by the perpetrators.

The WDAHT, 2023 was commemorated on July 28th with theme; “Reach out to every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind”. CHTEA in partnership with Forum for Women, Candle of Hope Organization, Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat and the Nairobi County Children Services’ department convened a stakeholder County forum at the Kamukunji Sub-County on 21st July 2023 at the California Digital Center, Eastleigh. This was a build-up activity to highlight the issue of child trafficking. The project aimed at bringing together migrants, victims of trafficking and the government agencies and non-state stakeholders to provide a platform to share their experiences, challenges and way forward in building a lasting solution for them.

Dear Sisters And Brothers– I offer to each of you Today

A cry from the heart of Mary.

A call to hear the pain

Of the hearts of millions

Our very own sisters and brothers too.

Women, children they cry.

Can we listen? dare we listen?

Can they touch our hearts?

Lead us out beyond our petty cares.

The downtrodden and impoverished

These must pull our hearts.

Till all we thought we knew before,

Now turns us full circle,

To see the past with thanks, and

Standing in this precious moment now

With thoughtful, pondering hearts.

Dare we glimpse the future

Bringing us to this new dawn,

A different way - and

Hold the hands of those abused,

Embrace them as our sisters now

Hold them in the warm embrace

Of visitation moment,

Where new life stirs.

To set them free and feel new life again,

And in the freeing and the opening,

we can change our world.

just for a while and know,

The founding charism

Tingle in our every cell & bones,

and breathe new life in all of us,

and feel the heart of Mary,

throb in our very souls,

at each new day a call.

Where love & misery meet,

and we become life bearers of compassion,

from deep within the heart of God”


Sr. Mary O’ Malley, MMM

A near Global Rescue Mission.


In what started as a simple visit by a known relative at a small village in Kisii, Kenya, some two young girls aged 16 and 17, vanished momentarily without a trace. The two had been attending a vocational college/school near their home. The two girls were unfortunately young mothers and were as well cousins. This happened during a short break/holiday during which time, the two stayed with their grand-mother before a maternal aunt visited them and convinced them to accompany her to the city where she was working as a bar tender.

Cause for Alarm

The college Principal had a rude shock when other students reported for the new term and the two girls were missing for two weeks before he enquired of their whereabouts. He visited their home which was not far from the college and he was informed that they had been taken to Nairobi for passport processing so that they could travel to the Gulf countries as domestic workers.  Since the college is co-founded between a Kenyan and an American citizen, the Principal immediately sent out an alert signal to the founder in US who in turn alerted another human rights activist based in Europe.

The European activist immediately released an alert message to one specific support network in Kenya calling for help to intercept the girls from exiting. This was almost turning out to be a global effort and different actors seemed to offer their strategic advantage input towards the rescue effort.

The Role of a Sub-Regional Civil Society Organization (CSO)

This alert was swiftly picked by a senior staff at CHTEA who mobilized emergency interception measures while coordinating with the college Principal on the ground who was briefed to gather verified data from the homestead where these girls disappeared from. The most immediate action was to verify that the two minors were still within the borders of Kenya. Interception would have been a feasible idea in this case. On the same day evening, the college Principal proceeded and pitched camp at the girls’ grandmother homestead where the girls were last seen. His mission was simple, to know who took the girls away and where they were destined for in Nairobi and explore if there could be some forwarding address or contacts to trace the girls. This information was to be relayed back to CHTEA for further processing and determination of next steps.

The Saga Comes Full Circle

As fate would have it, the Principal was forced to wait for the girls’ grandmother for hours on end as she had visited local market to sell farm produce. As darkness was approaching, the grandmother arrived home and a discussion about the girls’ whereabouts ensued. As the grand mother was briefing the Principal, the two girls suddenly appeared from the shadows of the night. The homestead mood immediately changed from lamentation to celebration and welcomed back the two girls. The girls were able to offer first hand narration of what had happened.

The two girls were shocked to find the Principal at their grand-mother’s compound at that hour of the evening. They were given a chance to explain their escapades. They had been away for two weeks and their grandmother was worried that they would miss out in their vocational training. After exchanging pleasantries, the girls settled down and shared their adventure to the city.  They explained that their aunt had lied to them that they could get passports to enable them travel to the Gulf countries for domestic work which was essentially considered a short cut to making quick money to support their babies. “Our aunt introduced us to prostitution by placing us among other equally young girls in a closed room where we were forced to be picked by male clients. We were not allowed to wear our under pants which made us feel naked but the lady who supervised us could hear none of our concerns”, said the elder one. “I kept crying and asking for mercy even from the male clients who chose me for their pleasure”, said the 16 year old.

The girls expressed regret for agreeing to be taken away from college and being deceived that there were better opportunities in Nairobi than back in Kisii. The two girls have been reintegrated back to the college life and are still undergoing counselling.

This matter was extensively discussed between CHTEA, the College Principal and the US based founder of the vocational college. After an intensive online meeting, it was agreed that an immediate opportunity should be given to the two girls by CHTEA for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder counselling in Nairobi during the next two weeks. This intervention will begin the journey of restoring them to their former selves prior to their ordeal in Nairobi.

A New Venture in Counter Human Trafficking

Further discussions also agreed on an intensive awareness campaign by the CHTEA and the college targeting the college community (students, parents and the larger community). An annual awareness programme is being developed to saturate the entire village with targeted messages and capacity enhancement to counter any future such attempts to recruit for human trafficking.

The case above was pure child trafficking and it was aided by a close relative through deception and abuse of authority by an adult. The matter has been reported to the Anti Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Nairobi for further investigation and possible prosecution of the main culpable offender and others associated with her criminal activities.


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