…it destroys the trust and confidence of the child who has been traumatised by war; only to be violated by his/her supposed rescuers. That psychological damage is irreparable. And the act is unforgivable.
The recent report by the British charity organisation, Save The Children, finally gave an official recognition to what locals and some aid workers have been complaining about for a long time: sex abuse of under-age African girls by aid workers. The report exposed the gory details of how Liberian girls as young as 12 were regularly lured to having sex with men - often humanitarian workers and peace-keeping soldiers. It’s been reported that the girls ‘sell sex’ or get involved in ‘man business’ to gain essential goods to help their impoverish families survive - sex in return for money or food.
That these young girls sell themselves is bad enough, but the incomprehensible part is that those that were designated with their safety and security turned around to violate them. The protectors became the aggressors. These men they are now having sex with are supposed to be the very ones to which such exploitations should be reported.
Titled From Camp To Community: Liberia Study on Exploitation of Children, the report contains a total of 315 interviews: 23% were boys and 26% were girls, while 27% and 24% were men and women respectively. Half were internally displaced refugees, while the other half were returnees from years of living as refugees in other countries, only to live in makeshift communities.
The report also pointed out that some of the reasons for having sex with the men - age on average between 30 and 60 - varied from economic deprivation, pressure from peers and parents, seeing other children with material goods and boredom.
But a most worrying part of the report was the perpetrators. It was discovered that among the numerous groups of men that were guilty of this exploitation included business men, police officers, teachers and peacekeeping soldiers. The report did not leave out humanitarian workers and those running the camp in the guilty verdict.
According to the report, “all focus groups and individual interviewees without exception mentioned NGO workers”. The study goes further to claim that “in all the internally displaced people’s camps where discussion groups were conducted, the camp management committee and the block leaders were implicated”.
One interviewee claimed that “in the camp, most camp officials were seeking sex with the children. During distribution of food and goods, when these people have interest in some of the girls, the authorities serve them very fast. After the distribution, they would arrange an appointment with the girls”.
One would then want to know why these atrocities were not reported. For starters, it’s been reported that among the under age girls having sex, most were afraid to report it because implicating NGO staff, could lead to NGO support being withdrawn. The report stated that “they would not know where to report it as Camp Management Committee and block leaders were themselves involved in it”.
Not only are these atrocities repugnant and ungodly, they completely undermined and rubbished the idea behind the works of humanitarian and charity organisations. It is an affront on the supranational bodies, governments, and other organisations that provided supports for the continuation of these otherwise noble works. But most importantly, it destroys the trust and confidence of the child who has been traumatised by war only to be violated by his/her supposed rescuers. That psychological damage is irreparable. And the act is unforgivable.
It is therefore imperative to call on, not only the Liberian government, but governments all over the world, the United Nations, international NGOs, concerned individuals, etc to do everything possible to stop this barbarity.
Anyone who uses his/her position of power to take advantage of vulnerable children must be reported and prosecuted. They should be tried in a special international court and their crimes tagged as “crime against humanity”.