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South Asian Countries Set Up Free Helpline to Counter Human Trafficking

U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says South Asia is the second-largest and fastest-growing region for human trafficking

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South Asian countries, Wikimedia Commons
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NEW DELHI—South Asian countries will set up a toll-free helpline and online platform to fight human trafficking, which is growing on a massive scale in one of the world’s poorest and most populous regions.

While some activists are hopeful this will curb cross-border trafficking, others doubt that it will dent the problem.

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A desperate mother who traveled from her village in Nepal to Mumbai, India in search of her teenage daughter who was trafficked into an Indian brothel , Wikimedia Commons

Although there is no specific data on the number of women and children trafficked in the region, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says South Asia is the second-largest and fastest-growing region for human trafficking.

The main victims of trafficking are girls and women.

This week, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh underlined the need for regional solutions while attending a South Asia conference on protecting children.

After the conference, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Nepal pledged to establish initiatives to trace missing children. They also plan to establish a uniform toll-free helpline and develop common standards for addressing sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking.

Turmoil raises risks

Turmoil in several of these countries has led to a surge in trafficking, according to Colin Gonsalves, head of the New Delhi activist group Human Rights Law Network.

“Nepal has had the earthquake, Bangladesh has had political strife. So this area is an area where families are being unsettled and displaced, poverty has increased, and so there are very large volumes of trafficking in this area, and more important there is no check at all,” he said.

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Forced labor in Nepal , Wikimedia Commons

There is high domestic trafficking in India also, where despite the impressive 7 percent-plus economic growth, huge income inequality means that millions of people are still extremely poor. At the same time, a surge in demand in the country’s booming cities results in many children and women working as prostitutes, laborers and poorly paid domestic employees.

Many of the victims are brought from Nepal and Bangladesh into India.

Related Article: Human Trafficking a borderless organized crime Rajnath Singh

‘Dismal situation’

A prominent Indian anti-trafficking activist, Rishi Kant, is optimistic that the South Asian initiative will curb cross-border trafficking.

“If we have [a] support system in other countries like Nepal and Bangladesh — because we have a lot of children from those countries coming to India, especially girl children — if those countries’ law enforcement agencies and the civil society jointly participate in passing information promptly and immediately, I think this will go a long way in rescuing the children,” Kant said.

However, Gonsalves and other activists blame the governments and law enforcement agencies for only paying lip service to a very serious crime, and say trafficking rings continue to function with impunity.

“If you ask overall in South Asia, ‘Has there been any progress toward curbing trafficking?’ [The answer is] only cosmetic stuff, but no systemic attempt to stop trafficking. It’s a very dismal situation,” Gonsalves said.

(Inputs from VOA)

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Feels so bad on hearing this type of shameful news. This is a social evil which needs to be eradicated asap. Why this is happening only in south Asia. South Asian countries should take a deeper look into this matter.

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Cepheid to Establish Manufacturing Unit for TB Diagnostics in India

Rifampicin is a drug commonly used in treating TB bacteria in first line of treatment

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The GeneXpert Edge is developed specifically for near-patient testing, to help support a one visit test-and-treat approach.
The GeneXpert Edge is developed specifically for near-patient testing, to help support a one visit test-and-treat approach. (IANS)

Expanding its footprint in India, US-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid Inc on Thursday announced its plans to establish a manufacturing unit in the country to improve Tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics.

Cepheid’s GeneXpert MTB/RIF test is a closed-cartridge-based system that is easy to operate by minimally trained staff and gives results in approximately two hours, speeding the conventional backlog that used to exist in traditional diagnostic methods.

The new manufacturing unit would produce MTB/RIF test cartridges, contribute to the government’s “Make in India” initiative and thus bringing the company’s global expertise in TB diagnostics to India, the company said in a statement.

As part of the plan, Cepheid also unveiled its latest portable, easy-to-use TB-testing system — the GeneXpert Edge — which is expected to be available in India later this year, the company said.

The GeneXpert Edge is developed specifically for near-patient testing, to help support a one visit test-and-treat approach.

“Cepheid recognises the need for technological advancement and is committed to contributing significantly to India’s goal of TB eradication,” said Peter Farrell, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Operations, Cepheid.

Cepheid's Xpert MTB/RIF test has the potential to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis(MTB)
Cepheid’s Xpert MTB/RIF test has the potential to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis(MTB).

“We are hopeful that GeneXpert Edge will help eliminate delays in TB diagnostics by providing definitive results within hours and facilitating fast and easy last-mile delivery even in the remote villages of India,” he added.

India has nearly one-fourth of the global TB patients and an estimated 4.8 lakh lives are lost every year due to delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment and there are above 2.5 million new cases of TB every year. The country aims to eradicate TB by 2025.

Approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010, more than 1,200 Cepheid’s GeneXpert Systems have been installed in the last two years at various Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) sites in the country and more than 2.5 million cartridges were supplied last year at various centres of Central TB Division (CTD).

Also Read: Fruit Bats Identified As Source Of Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala

Cepheid’s Xpert MTB/RIF test has the potential to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis(MTB) and rifampicin-resistance mutations, which are markers for MDR-TB strains in under two hours.

Rifampicin is a drug commonly used in treating TB bacteria in first line of treatment.

Xpert MTB/RIF tests also have excellent negative predictive value, which allows clinicians to manage TB-negative patients more effectively to prevent unnecessary and costly respiratory isolations. (IANS)