Challenging COVID-19: Conversations from the Ground


The COVID-19 pandemic is putting the world under enormous strain, affecting the lives of everyone. The unprecedented measures adopted to flatten the infection curve include enforced quarantine, curfews and lockdowns, travel restrictions, and limitations on economic activities and public life. In this scenario, the governments as well as others including, civil society, UN agencies and other individuals, have been working on the ground to mitigate the impact of the health crisis. While some are providing backhand expert support, others provide on-the-ground immediate response.

The pandemic has also exacerbated and brought to the forefront the systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of human trafficking. Criminals are also adjusting their business models to adapt to the pandemic, especially through the abuse of modern communications technologies.

UNODC, through this series, brings to you the conversations with some of the experts and partners on the ground who have moved from being the ‘First Responders’ on trafficking in persons, to the ‘Frontline Responders’ to COVID-19.  Every week, we will be engaging with these experts and learning in-depth some of the issues they are seeing, the innovative measures on the ground, and identifying their needs going forward. We will converse on how this pandemic is changing the delivery systems, the mechanisms, under the restricted ‘new normal’, and what can be done further as we chart-out partnerships.

UNODC's "Conversations" series

In an effort to promote voices from the ground, UNODC is featuring stories from frontline responders through the "Conversations" series. Through a set of podcasts, the aim is to highlight and recognize the efforts and interventions being undertaken in South Asia by UNODC partners in field to counter trafficking in persons and strengthening multi-stakeholder responses.

Listen to UNODC's "Conversations" podcasts featuring experts from the ground, in conversation with Ms. Deepika Naruka, UNODC Programme Coordinator:


Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, Co-Founder, Prajwala (India)

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan is an Indian human rights activist who has committed her life to end sex slavery globally. As the Co-Founder of the NGO Prajwala, she is responsible for strategic planning of all interventions. Dr. Krishnan is the head of all Prajwala operations and continues to expand its interventions. She is an advisor to several State Governments to develop holistic victim services and also plays an important role in the Inter-Ministerial Committee at the national level to draft comprehensive legislation on human trafficking. She was honored with the fourth highest civilian honor “Padmashree” in the year 2016. Ms Krishnan was also declared the Tallberg Global Leader for the year 2016.

Listen: In Conversation with Dr. Sunitha Krishnan 


Mr. Mahesh Bhagwat, IPSCommissioner of Police, Rachakonda Commissionerate, Telangana (India)

Mr. Mahesh Bhagwat is currently serving as the first Commissioner of Police of Rachakonda Commissionerate in India’s Telangana state. Mr. Bhagwat is an anti-human trafficking champion, and has demonstrated remarkable commitment to the fight against human trafficking for many years. He has participated in anti-trafficking operations that have removed hundreds of victims from situations of trafficking, by working actively in partnership with not just the government departments but also very successfully with civil society organizations as well as communities on the ground.

During the current COVID-19 health crisis, Mr. Bhagwat and his team have been at the frontline of the law enforcement  response to the health crisis in his jurisdiction of Rachakonda in Telangana.

Listen: In Conversation with Mr. Mahesh Bhagwat 


Mr. Rajesh Mani, Director, Manav Seva Sansthan (India)

Mr. Rajesh Mani is a social and human rights activist, journalist and academician. For many years, he has been actively involved in addressing issues that influence the lives of the most underprivileged in the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar. He has been actively working since his student life on social causes and justice for all. He is the Director of Manav Seva Sansthan ‘SEVA’ and is based in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

At present, during the COVID-19 scenario, he has also been nominated as a counsellor in Varanasi and Chandauli districts for supporting and boosting the morale of people kept in quarantine facilities, people and children at short stay homes, and, shelter homes for rehabilitation and care for those in distress.

Listen: In Conversation with Mr. Rajesh Mani


Other Resources

UNODC has developed a thematic brief highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on trafficking in persons. It emphasises the need to protect and assist victims as part of the COVID-19 responses, in line with the UN's commitment to Leave No One Behind. 

The brief presents preliminary findings and messaging based on rapid stocktaking, and puts forth UNODC's response as well as key recommendations for stakeholders.

Read here: UNODC Thematic Brief – Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trafficking in Persons