There's no way to sugarcoat or qualify this: news wires are abuzz with reports of widespread abuse of minors by UN peacekeepers and other humanitarian workers in post-conflict nations. According to a report released today by UK nonprofit Save the Children that focuses on the Ivory Coast, Haiti, and southern Sudan, "the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children could be found in every type of humanitarian organization at all levels." In Sudan, "people don't report [sexual abuse] because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them," a teen says. There are many specific instances of abuse described by the the organization, but the most chilling so far is the story of 'Elizabeth' (pictured above left), a 13-year-old from the Ivory Coast.
According to the BBC, 10 UN "peacekeepers" gang-raped Elizabeth in a field. "They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me... I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing…I was terrified. Then they just left me there bleeding." When village elders tried to report the abuse, they were ignored.
Save the Children suggests that a global watchdog organization be formed to monitor these kinds of abuses, supplemented by local complaints mechanisms and public awareness campaigns. In the meantime, the UN says it has a zero tolerance policy when allegations of sexual abuse are at hand, and last year 100 Sri Lankan soldiers stationed in Haiti were sent home when it became evident that they were paying for sex.
Charity: Aid Workers Raping, Abusing Children [CNN]
Sexual Abuse Of Children By Aid Workers Too Often Unreported [Save the Children]
Peacekeepers 'Abusing Children' [BBC]