Hundreds of survivors of Typhoon Haiyan found shelter in a Tacloban church after the disaster. Photo: Damir Sagolj / Reuters

By Justine Calma
2 May 2017

(Quartz) – When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, it was, at the time, the strongest storm in history ever to make landfall. A “super typhoon” with wind speeds that reached 196 miles per hour, Haiyan displaced more than 4 million people and nearly wiped out the coastal city of Tacloban. Residents like Kristine still recall the smell of death that floated on the sea breeze and permeated streets.

“Too many people died,” Kristine says, somberly. But the storm, known locally as Yolanda, was just the beginning of the painful journey she was about to take.

After the skies cleared, a second humanitarian disaster unfolded in the Tacloban Astrodome, a sports arena where thousands took shelter. An underground economy took root as women and girls were sold for food and scarce aid supplies, or trafficked into forced labor and sex work by recruiters offering jobs and scholarships. Kristine says she was sold to men every night; some of the men were foreign-aid workers, she believes. The men raped her, and took graphic pictures and videos. Kristine was 13.

As severe storms and rising sea levels wear down coastal regions, women and girls are at ever-greater risk. Climate change is a new push factor for human trafficking; its effects destroy livelihoods and place women and children in post-catastrophe situations that traffickers exploit.

The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which scientists have linked to an increased frequency and severity of extreme-weather events like Haiyan. The country consistently ranks within the top five nations most prone to extreme weather and natural disasters. It’s getting worse; temperatures have been recorded at the highest levels in history in recent years, and five of the 10 deadliest storms to ever hit the country have taken place since 2006. The Eastern Visayas, of which Tacloban is the largest city, is often ground zero for the typhoons that make landfall in the Philippines. [more]

Climate change has created a new generation of sex-trafficking victims



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