By Jared Ferrie
PHNOM PENH, Dec 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A fghanistan cannot tackle its human trafficking problem alone, the U.N. migration agency warned on Monday, as it launched a database to help the war-ravaged country fight the rising crime.
Afghanistan strengthened its laws in January 2017 to address a rise in human trafficking, including forced labour and marriage, domestic work and the sex trade.
Meena Poudel, who heads the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s counter-trafficking programme in Afghanistan, said there was a growing willingness to address trafficking, but authorities had struggled to determine the scale of the problem.
"The issue was a knowledge gap," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by Skype on Monday, a day after the launch of an online database and a national referral mechanism that outlines the responsibilities of those involved.
She said tackling the problem would require cooperation with neighbouring countries as well as political will inside Afghanistan, proposing a regional agreement "to respond the issue in a coordinated way".
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan expressed their support at a forum earlier this month for an Afghan proposal to draft a memorandum of understanding to fight human trafficking, she added.
The U.S. State Department's 2018 Trafficking in Persons report said Afghanistan was a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation.
There has been "a steady increase in the number of young female trafficking victims arriving to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries," according to the IOM.
It has said traffickers prey on the increasing number of Afghans who have been deported or decided to return from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, as well as those uprooted by conflict inside the country.
The problem has been exacerbated by a severe drought, which has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and pushed families to marry off their children in exchange for dowries in order to survive.
(Reporting by Jared Ferrie @jaredferrie; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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