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Police thyself

"Police thyself" Continued...

Issue: "Houses divided," June 3, 2006

Mr. Schaefer says that the United States is right to be suspicious about council members with poor human-rights records that "want to be able to influence the process and water down anything that might be critical of their own human-rights records." He says if the council really wants to prove itself, its first order of business should be obvious: "Conduct reviews of its own worst offenders."

Sinister aid

Study says workers in Liberia are exploiting the needy in exchange for food

Konah Brown is one of thousands of Liberians who have sought food aid from one of the dozens of UN aid workers stationed in her poverty-stricken West African nation. But Ms. Brown says getting food from relief workers can turn into a loathsome ordeal: The 20-year-old woman recently told the BBC that a UN World Food Program (WFP) worker forced her to have sex in exchange for aid. "This young man had been doing it to most of my friends. And the children too don't have strong minds. They will have sex with him to get the food," said Ms. Brown.

Save the Children UK (STC), a London-based international relief organization, says girls in Liberia as young as 8 face sexual exploitation from a confusing cadre of men who are supposed to help them: UN workers, NGO aid workers, government officials, and school teachers. STC released the findings of a study conducted in temporary camps in Liberia for those displaced by civil war and in communities with Liberians recently repatriated to their towns and villages after the 20-year war's end.

STC, which provides relief in Liberian displacement camps, interviewed 300 children and adults in four camps and four repatriated communities and found a consistent theme: a "high level" of children, ages 8 to 18, reportedly engaging in "selling sex" as a means of survival. "All of the respondents clearly stated that they felt the scale of the problem affected over half the girls in their locations," the study said. Parents who lacked resources to provide for their children reported feeling "powerless" to stop their children from exchanging sex for food and other services, and many have come to accept the abuse.

The study said interviewees reported that sex openly occurs between underage girls and men in positions of power, including UN and NGO employees. STC spokeswoman Laura Conrad told WORLD that STC has met with the UN and other NGOs to discuss the study's findings, and that the UN "is taking it very seriously." Greg Barrow of the UN's World Food Program told the BBC that program leaders have opened an investigation into the reports of abuse, and hope to find the links in the aid chain who are "abusing this position."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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