Children were one-third of the casualties of the tsunamis. Thousands have been orphaned or separated from families. They are at greatest risk for starvation and disease. They are also in danger from human traffickers, who have long operated in South Asia with near impunity, and who must have viewed the tsunamis as an opportunity to prey on the victims.

Soon after the wave hit, Indonesia — where an estimated 35,000 children have lost one or both parents — moved to protect young people in hard-hit Aceh, barring the departure of children from that province unless they are accompanied by verifiable family members. The emphasis is on finding lost children, registering them and housing them until they can be reunited with their families. As a result, there have been just a handful of confirmed reports of post-tsunami child trafficking.

These efforts will no doubt save young people who might otherwise be exported for sale as sex slaves or sweatshop labour. The nations of South Asia are notorious for supplying a large part of the thousands of children trafficked every year as part of a $12 billion criminal enterprise worldwide. These efforts will mean little unless they evolve into a region-wide commitment to keep up the pressure to stop child exploitation, not just as part of the recovery from a disaster, but as an investment in a collective future. — The New York Times