Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Aid Workers 'In Child Sex Abuse' Charity Calls for Setting Up of Watchdog

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Aid Workers 'In Child Sex Abuse' Charity Calls for Setting Up of Watchdog

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Churcher

AN international watchdog must be set up urgently to deal with widespread cases of child sex abuse by aid workers and peacekeepers, a charity said today.

Save the Children demanded action after its research found youngsters as young as six were trading sex for food, money, soap and even mobile phones in war zones and disaster areas.

It said all organisations, including itself, had their share of abusers involved in "some of the most despicable abuse against some of the world's most vulnerable children".

The scale of abuse was "significant" and victims were being let down by "endemic failures" in responding to the incidences that were officially reported, it concluded.

Better reporting mechanisms should be introduced, it said, as well as efforts made to strengthen child protection systems across the globe.

Hundreds of young people from Ivory Coast, Southern Sudan and Haiti were involved in the research behind the conclusions. Publication of the findings comes amid two massive international aid efforts - for the victims of the Chinese earthquake and the cyclone in Burma.

Save the Children UK chief executive Jasmine Whitbread 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.

"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. …

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