A report released Tuesday by Save the Children UK states that children living in conflict-effected zones are being sexually abused by international humanitarian aid workers and UN peacekeepers. The report’s researchers interviewed hundreds of children, and found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex, reports CNN. Most cases go unreported, however, due to fear of retaliation and social stigmas attached to sexual abuse. The report outlines recommendations to combat the widespread problem.
“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, said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, in a press release.
A UN spokesperson called the report fair and “essentially accurate,” and the UN will investigate the allegations, according to the Associated Press. The UN has a zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse. The spokesperson added that the UN has undertaken steps to combat the problem, but needed to strengthen its investigative capacity.