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Social work, sociology faculty awarded $4m to study human trafficking

Alan Flurry

Researchers at UGA formed an international consortium, the Africa Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) that received a $4 million award from the U.S. Department of State to reduce the prevalence of human trafficking in targeted communities of West Africa. The project is overseen by the State Department’s Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons and is part of its Program to End Modern Slavery:

Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, is a persistent, worldwide problem hampered by lack of data for intervention efforts. Over the next five years, APRIES will collect data on the prevalence of human trafficking in parts of Sierra Leone and Guinea. The baseline research will support programs that seek to achieve a measurable reduction of modern slavery. If successful, the program’s methodology could serve as a model for similar efforts elsewhere.

“There has never been a systematic, research-based multinational effort as extensive as this to tackle the problem of modern slavery in Africa,” said David Okech, an associate professor in the UGA School of Social Work and the project’s director and principal investigator. “This is a challenge and also a great opportunity to execute truly transformational programs.”

According to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. That figure is likely an underestimate, said APRIES researchers.

Statistics are acutely needed in Africa. “There are limited data in Guinea and Sierra Leone on the prevalence of modern slavery,” said Jody Clay-Warner, Josiah Meigs Professor of Sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and an associate director of the project. “The award provides us the opportunity, at a minimum, to fill this gaping hole to inform policy and programming.”

Congratulations to the APRIES team, which will work with ResilientAfrica Network, a USAID-funded partnership of 20 African universities based at Makerere University in Uganda. The scourge of human trafficking and the number of people suffering in slavery in the world today represents a fundamental failure of governments to protect citizens and an unacceptable lack of international cooperation in ensuring human rights everywhere. Our faculty members have worked tirelessly to build this level of collaboration and win this necessary support. More information toward a re-ordering of priorities will help build the more secure world on which a promising future depends.

Image: A marketplace in Guinea. APRIES will collect data on the prevalence of human trafficking in parts of Sierra Leone and Guinea. (Photo: Alex Balch)

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