HONG KONG — No nightmare is more chilling than having one’s child stolen away. But in China, that nightmare becomes real up to 70,000 times a year.
Although little known about it outside the country, child trafficking is epidemic in the People’s Republic. Every year, thousands of young children — typically from poor families — are kidnapped, transported hundreds of miles, and sold for $500 to $5000.
Some end up as prostitutes or slave laborers. Most are bought by people who want to raise the child as their own.
Stymied by poverty and indifferent local police, many birth parents hunt for their children for years and never find them.
Beijing has been trying to combat the problem for years. Police have rescued more than 54,000 children and cracked down on 11,000 traffickers since 2009, according to Xinhua news agency.
China does not release statistics on the overall number of abduction cases reported. “Estimates range from about 10,000 to 70,000 kids per year,” says Charlie Custer, the co-creator of a new documentary on the subject, Living With Dead Hearts. “You can’t put that many kids on a milk carton.”
ABU ZAABAL, Egypt — On the outskirts of Cairo in the hot August sun, families waited for hours outside the Abu Zaabal prison. “I think my son is inside,” said the mother of 15-year-old Mohamed.
He was arrested with his father at an anti-government protest in central Cairo on Aug. 16 — and now faces charges of murder and heavy weapons possession, she said. “But no one will tell me anything.”
When defense lawyer Islam Shahban emerges from the prison hours later, he has no news for her. He was denied access to Mohamed’s hearing, he said.
According to families, lawyers and human rights groups, more than 90 minors have been arrested nationwide since the July 3 military takeover that dismissed Muslim Brotherhood leader and former President Mohamed Morsi from power.
NAHARIYA, Israel — On Thursday, four out of six beds in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Western Galilee Hospital were filled.
In one bed was an 8-year-old Ethiopian boy who’d been mauled by a hyena, half his head caught in the animal’s jaws. After languishing for five months in an Addis Ababa facility with his skull exposed, an American volunteer with a Jewish philanthropy secured the boy’s transfer to Israel.
Nearby, a 12-year-old girl lay almost unresponsive. She was gaunt and gray beneath the thin sheet that covered her. To help her cope with postoperative pain — her back and torso had been mangled by an explosion — she was attached to a morphine drip.
On the other side of the room an elevated crib enclosed a 3-year-old girl who wailed and whimpered for her mother. A nurse ran her hands through the girl’s hair to try to soothe her, but there was no quieting.
Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.
It may sound like this ward belongs in Dante’s Purgatorio, but in fact, a half-hour south of Israel’s northern border, it is part of a battlefield that’s destroying Syria.
"We are seeing shrapnel wounds, bullet wounds, burns. We’re seeing war on these kids," said Dr. Zeev Zonis, the tall, bear-like man who heads the ward. The Red Cross regularly visits the patients, who are considered "protected persons."
This is the first in a series of posts about child health in India, where, in 2011, 1.7 million children under the age of 5 died. Health reporting fellow Harman Boparai travels to India, where he once practiced as a physician, to take a deeper look at child health in his home country. “A Doctor’s Notes” is part of a GlobalPost Special Report titled “The Seven Million,” about the many challenges faced worldwide in an effort to reduce child mortality.
Here’s a cheery thought while you’re baking Nestle’s Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough: those chocolate chips may have been produced by children working long hours with no pay, some of whom have been injured by machetes. Nestle, the company famous for its chocolates and other foods, is accused of not doing enough to stop the brutal child labor in the chocolate industry, BBC News reported.
Its long been known that child labor plays a major role in producing the world’s cocoa,GlobalPost reported, with about 600,000 children in Ivory Coast working on cocoa farms.
Nestle, the world’s largest food company, has pledged to stop the practice. More recently, Nestle commissioned the Fair Labor Association to map its cocoa supply chain in the Ivory Coast, the BBC said.
While Nestle gets credit for being the first multinational chocolate company to allow its system to be completely assessed, the results of the investigation were nonetheless not good. “The investigation by FLA found that child labor persists despite industry efforts to discourage the employment of children,” the FLA said in a statement,according to Reuters.
Nestle accepted the findings of the report and said they hope to improve their labor practices: “The use of child labor in our cocoa supply goes against everything we stand for,” Jose Lopez, Nestle’s head of operations, said in a webcast following the news, Bloomberg News reported.
The FLA report recommends that the Ivory Coast government take its own regulatory steps to end child labor. It also suggests that Nestle and other chocolate companies set clearer labor standards to all parties in its supply chain, Bloomberg reported.