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The Center on Human Trafficking Research & Outreach (CenHTRO) was established in 2021 as a collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and international research hub in the global effort to combat human trafficking. CenHTRO draws upon three decades of cumulative research and practice by its faculty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Based in the University of Georgia School of Social Work and led by Dr. David Okech, pictured at right, the center conducts research, develops programming, and influences policies that drastically and measurably reduce human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

CenHTRO recognizes and seeks to address vast gaps in measuring the prevalence of human trafficking worldwide and in implementing evidence-informed interventions. Built upon the extensive research and programming experience of its faculty and staff, CenHTRO responds to these disparities by grounding its work in an innovative approach that prioritizes empirical data and values input from survivors of human trafficking. This method is best exemplified by its ongoing projects, which include the African Programming and Research Initiative to End Modern Slavery (APRIES) and the Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum (PRIF).

Dr. David Okech
“Human trafficking is a multidimensional and complex problem. It is important to address the root causes of trafficking by focusing on the drivers and facilitators of the phenomenon.”

— Dr. David Okech
  • Working in 11 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Prevalence estimation research in 6 countries (Brazil, Costa Rica, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, Tunisia).
  • Implementation research in 5 countries (Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).
  • Team of 30 consisting of faculty, staff, pre-doc fellows, and graduate research assistants.
  • Current funding base at $34 million from 4 grants.


  • Seed grants for U.S.-based research projects.

  • Active membership on Georgia Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force.

  • Graduate course on human trafficking at UGA.

  • 24 sub-awards with research and implementation partners.

As part of ourTheory of Change (PDF), we recognize that human trafficking is a complex, multi-sector social problem that no single entity can tackle alone.  We believe that survivors’ voices are essential in prosecution, protection, prevention, and policy for successful anti-human trafficking efforts.

CenHTRO co-designs programs and policies alongside local community-engaged partners, creating interventions that are driven by empirical research, ecologically tailored for various cultural contexts, and culturally appropriate to meet the needs of individuals who have been trafficked or who are at risk of being trafficked. 

We find that an interdisciplinary and trauma-informed strategy is lacking in existing anti-trafficking efforts worldwide. We believe our approach will lead to innovation that promises positive outcomes in the fight against human trafficking.