UN agency reports extensive abuse of refugee children in West Africa
Children are subjected to "extensive" sexual exploitation in refugee camps in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to an assessment released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and non-governmental organization Save the Children UK.
Much of the abuse is allegedly perpetrated by local staff employed by national and international aid organizations including UNHCR, according to the assessment, which is based on testimony from children in camps gathered during a 40-day mission to the region by a team from the two organizations.
While UNHCR makes it clear that the team "was not in a position to verify the allegations" it received, the number of allegations "leaves no doubt that there is a serious problem of sexual exploitation demanding further action."
The information provided to the team has been used to formulate a series of remedial measures by UNHCR to ensure that aid is not used as currency in sexual exploitation. These include increasing the international presence in refugee camps, deploying more female staff, establishing a secure reporting mechanism for raising complaints, identifying the most vulnerable and increasing security for them and ensuring those abused have access to the legal system so violators are prosecuted.