As part of the United Nations zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation, the world body’s mission in Sudan today agreed with the Government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to set up a joint task force to foster coordination, information-sharing and action to stamp out the problem wherever it may occur.
The agreement was reached during a one-day workshop in the Sudanese capital Khartoum that focused on policies aimed at preventing sexual exploitation and abuse being committed by military personnel, including peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and others.
“The Task force’s mandate is to coordinate measures to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation; ensure more effective communication on the subject between all actors concerned from the UN and the Government of Sudan; and review existing mechanisms for reporting, response and follow up on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation,” according to a joint press release.
The meeting took place at the initiative of the Sudanese National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW), and as well as involving the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and UNICEF, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) also took part.
Participants acknowledged that sexual exploitation and abuse occur in most communities fragmented by conflict and devastated by war and poverty, and also that these acts are not exclusive to UN personnel, military or civilian, humanitarian workers or armed forces and armed groups of the country concerned.
This latest move to prevent and clamp down upon sexual exploitation comes after recent media reports of abuses by UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan, something that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top officials have adamantly declared will not be tolerated.
Meanwhile on the ground in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, killings and burning of villages are continuing, causing hundreds of families to flee for their lives.
A joint UN assessment team to south Darfur on Tuesday found that fighting over the past two weeks had left almost 150 people dead, and over 20 injured, while 12 villages had been burned down leading to a surge in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Turning to west Darfur, UNMIS reports that “consistent attacks from Arab militias” have caused 25 families from the Twonga area, near the Chad border, to flee to Hassa Hissa, among these according to a non-governmental organization (NGO) are at least 60 or so people suffering from leprosy.
Also in west Darfur, UNMIS said that since the beginning of the New Year, about 700 families were reported to have arrived in Zalingei Hamadia IDP camp having fled harassment from the Abala Arab tribe in Abata area.
In a related development and as part of its reconstruction efforts, on Tuesday UNMIS handed over to local authorities in Damazin, Sudan’s Blue Nile state, a newly constructed police station, built as part of the Mission’s Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) initiative to help local communities.