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The Catholic church endorses trafficking awareness training for nurses
The launch of a new programme to raise awareness of human trafficking among nurses across the world has been welcomed by the Santa Marta Group, an alliance of Catholic bishops and police chiefs combatting modern slavery.
This comes as the largest known UK modern slavery ring, which exploited more than 400 people into forced labour, has been smashed.
The initiative is a partnership between the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), HSE and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
Its aim is to engage with the 20 million nurses across the world and equip them with the necessary training and skills to identify potential cases of exploitation and provide vital care and support.
Research in the UK and US found that many trafficked victims use healthcare services during their period of exploitation and are likely to have some contact with a nurse.
Santa Marta's senior adviser, Kevin Hyland addressed the ICN's Congress in Singapore, which was attended by the national nursing bodies of over 120 countries.
Mr Hyland said: "Healthcare professionals, and in particular nurses, provide an opportunity to increase identification of those who are victims of trafficking, but importantly also to provide advice to prevent people taking dangerous risks that could seriously damage their physical and mental health as a public health issue.
Mr Hyland has called on the medical community to take action in the fight against human trafficking in which current figures have revealed less than 1% of victims across the globe are identified.
He added: "Mobilising the 20 million members of the ICN, most of whom work on the front line, will offer an opportunity to significantly increase the numbers of children, women and men who are protected from this abhorrent abuse."
Cindy McCain, chair of the McCain Institute and co-chair of the Arizona Governor's Council on Human Trafficking, was another keynote speaker at the ICN conference.
She told the nurses present that their involvement was crucial to combat trafficking: "You are on the frontlines. Unless you are educated on signs of human trafficking, we won't win this. This is a call to action!
"It is critical we put human trafficking assessment tools in the hands of as many health practitioners as possible," she said.
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