Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Aid worker sex abuse scandal

Last year, the UN was rocked by a major scandal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo involving the sexual exploitation of young girls by peacekeepers. Now, the aid world has been rattled by allegations of similiar outrages in Liberia.

The NGO Save the Children reports that children in Liberia are sexually exploited by humanitarian workers, peacekeepers and local businessmen. The study was conducted in temporary camps for those displaced by the civil war and amongst those recently repatriated to their towns and villages of origin after the end of the war.

This despite commitments made by all parties to improve monitoring of staff conduct, following a similiar scandal in 2002.

Save the Children added that During the study in Liberia, children and community members consistently reported that a high proportion of girls in their camps were being sexually exploited by adults in positions of power. They reported that adults providing humanitarian assistance, peacekeepers and wealthy individuals regularly buy under-age sex.

Particularly, exchanging sex for basic necessities such as money to attend school or food to feed their families.

And this is the dirty little secret regarding soldiers and aid workers serving abroad They do good work and help people under extremely difficult conditions. But they remain mostly men who are thousands of miles away from their partners. They have sexual desires. They have power over the lives and well-being of many people. The potential for abuse is immense.

NGOs and the UN member armies must be increasingly vigilant of their workers and soldiers. Anyone committing such crimes or violations of organizational ethics policies must be punished accordingly.

Donors to such organizations expect zero tolerance for the exploitation of those the aid workers are supposed to protect, especially children.

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