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UGA receives $15.75M to combat human trafficking

David Okech, director, African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

It will expand current efforts in Africa and create a forum of scholars

The University of Georgia has been selected to receive $15.75 million from the U.S. Department of State to expand programming and research to measurably reduce human trafficking.

The new award, funded by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office), will scale up the UGA-based African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) current anti-human trafficking work in Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as expand efforts to Senegal. As part of the funded project, APRIES will also launch the Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum. The forum – the first of its kind – will enlist scholars from universities around the world to test and develop the best ways to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking.

The award contributes to APRIES’ growing budget, which received a $4 million award in 2018 from the TIP Office under the Program to End Modern Slavery.

“In addition to strengthening current anti-trafficking efforts, the goal of APRIES is to build a global community of researchers and learners in the science of estimating human trafficking prevalence,” said David Okech, an associate professor of social work at UGA who is principal investigator of the project and director of APRIES.

A severe lack of data hampers attempts to curtail human trafficking worldwide. In 2018, APRIES and ResilientAfrica Network, a USAID-funded partnership of African universities based at Makerere University, Uganda, began exploring a systematic way to establish baseline data on child trafficking in selected hotspots in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The project utilizes an innovative, collective impact approach that encourages participation from a wide variety of stakeholders. The data collected will inform government policy and provide evidence for better programs for trafficking survivors.

The Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum will kick off with a conference in spring 2020, at which research teams will debate different methodologies to conduct robust human trafficking prevalence studies. Following the conference, the teams will field-test various research methods to estimate the prevalence of trafficking in selected lower- and middle-income countries.

To ensure the data is robust, the research teams will use two to three different data collection methods. The teams will assess how each method performs in specific situations and document their process of conducting research. The teams will present their findings at a final conference in spring 2022.

“Given the methodology for prevalence estimation that we have been developing for Sierra Leone and Guinea, this additional funding is a great opportunity to scale our research and programming,” said Jody Clay-Warner, co-investigator and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Other investigators on the project are Tamora Callands, assistant professor of health promotion and behavior, UGA College of Public Health, and Alex Balch, professor of politics, University of Liverpool. Lydia Aletraris, Ph.D., will serve as project coordinator for the Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum. Claire Bolton, Ph.D., will serve as program manager of APRIES.

For more information about APRIES, visit