Human Rights advocacy
No one to turn to
A report released by Save the Children UK shows that children living in conflict-affected countries fear to report sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping troops and humanitarian aid workers.
Children told Save the Children UK that they were too afraid to report the abuse, frightened that if they did the abuser might come back and hurt them, that aid agencies might stop helping them, or that they might be stigmatised by their family and community, or even punished by them. This suggests that for every case of abuse that is identified, there are likely to be many more that go unreported. Save the Children UK's research in Ivory Coast, Southern Sudan and Haiti shows that children as young as six are being abused by adults working for the international community. "People don't report it because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them", explained a teenage boy in Southern Sudan. To combat the problem, Save the Children UK makes three recommendations that are under discussion with the UN Task Force on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: Effective local complaints mechanisms to be set up by the UN in the countries in which there is a significant international presence, so that children and/or their parents are able to report abuses carried out by those acting on behalf of the international community and get decisive action taken against the perpetrators.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, said: "This research exposes the despicable actions of a small number of perpetrators who are sexually abusing some of the most vulnerable children in the world, the very children they are meant to protect. It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights.
"In recent years, some important commitments have been made by the UN, the wider international community and by humanitarian and aid agencies to act on this problem. But welcome as these are, in most cases statements of principle and good intent have yet to be converted into really decisive and concerted international action."
The report reveals that the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children can be found in every type of humanitarian, peace and security organisation, at every grade of staff, and among both locally recruited and international staff. Whitbread continued: "Obviously the vast majority of aid workers are not involved in any form of abuse or exploitation, but in life-saving essential humanitarian work. However all humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations, including Save the Children UK, must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on."
Source: Save the Children UK.