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Posted: 3/3/2002 9:23:58 PM EDT
UN pledges probe of abuse charges - Refugees' plight blamed on local staff, peacekeepers By Elizabeth Neuffer, Globe Staff, 2/28/2002 UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan pledged yesterday to swiftly investigate recent allegations of widespread child abuse by aid workers in West Africa and vowed to act against any wrongdoers. ''The secretary general is shocked and disturbed,'' UN spokesman Marie Okabe said yesterday. ''He intends to act forcefully, should any of these allegations be confirmed.'' Annan was in Berlin. A UN investigative team is now in West Africa, examining charges of abuse made in a report by the UN Office of High Commissioner for Refugees and the British charity Save the Children. That report, made public Tuesday, charged there has been ''extensive sexual exploitation'' by aid workers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Aid workers in all three places are accused of forcing refugee children to have sex in exchange for aid. Nearly 70 aid workers from 40 agencies demanded sex from children in relief camps in exchange for basic necessities such as food or water, the report asserted. The abuse, the report concluded, was largely carried out by aid workers hired locally by the UN or other relief groups. But in the case of Sierra Leone, some UN peacekeepers also demanded sexual favors, the report charges. Victims were primarily girls between the ages of 13 and 18, all of whom had gone to the camps seeking sanctuary in the face of bitter fighting in their homelands. Thousands of refugees have been displaced from the three countries in nearly 12 years of conflict. ''We are particularly outraged that some humanitarian workers have betrayed the trust of the children they are charged to assist and protect,'' Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, said in a statement yesterday. The UN investigation will be carried out by a team that includes staff from the UN inspector general's office. Conclusions were expected next month. The allegations in the report, compiled by outside consultants, as well as Save The Children staff, are largely anecdotal. But it concludes that the ''exchange of sex for money or gifts appears to be widespread.'' ''The children, whilst aware of the exploitative nature of the exchange, felt this often was the only option they had in order to receive food and other basic necessities.'' Quoting from refugees, the report paints a picture of women and children essentially held hostage by aid workers and peacekeepers. ''They say, `A kilo for sex,''' one refugee woman in Guinea was quoted as saying. A refugee from Liberia said: ''They [aid workers] use food as bait to get you to sex with them." UN peacekeepers, the study said, also sexually exploited children, demanding they strip or have sex in exchange for food or cash. Rates ranged from $5 to $300, the report said. There have been other complaints leveled against both UN peacekeepers and employees of the UN's chief relief agency, the UNHCR. Last month, UN investigators reported that UNHCR staff had illegally collected millions from refugees who thought the payments would buy them a way to leave Africa. Allegations of sexual abuse and involvement in child abuse last year were brought against Danish and Slovakian soldiers with the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. And allegations of sexual misconduct were also brought against Jordanian peacekeepers in East Timor.
Link Posted: 3/3/2002 9:26:42 PM EDT
Yes, it is the "local staff, peacekeepers" because wherever they go it's happening. We've discussed this about Kosovo/Bosnia and other places where such abuses are occuring, and now it's WEST Africa. Will it ever end, or is the organization itself just too corrupt to police itself?
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