UN peacekeepers and humanitarian staff are having sex with Liberian girls as young as 8-years-old in the very camps where their families have sought protection, according to a new report by Save the Children UK. Along with UN peacekeepers, the report says that camp officials, humanitarian staff, government employees and even teachers are involved in the sex trade with young Liberian girls.
Men often trade inexpensive items such as beans, bulgur wheat or even rides in their UN vehicles for sex with the young girls. The reports says the abuse is very widespread and that it occurs in every contingent in the country where peacekeepers are stationed. Some of these humanitarian workers are in Liberia to provide the local population with HIV and AIDS awareness training yet the report says that the very agencies involved in this training are also involved in the sex trade.
The report calls on the UN Secretariat to identify why the zero tolerance policy has not been enforced. "Men who use position of power to take advantage of vulnerable children must be reported and fired," said Jasmine Whitbread, UK Chief of Save the Children.
The UN issued a response to the report saying, "The United Nations in Liberia is committed to prevent, identify and sanction the abhorrent practice of sexual abuse and exploitation in full compliance with the Secretary-General’s Bulletin "Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse" and its policy of zero tolerance."
The UN said that since the beginning of the year, eight sexual abuse and exploitation cases involving UN personnel in Liberia have been reported to the internal UN office in charge of investigating all cases of serious misconduct. One of those cases has been substantiated, and the staff member was immediately suspended.