Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the United Nations will investigate allegations by a British children's charity that peacekeepers and aid workers have sexually abused children in conflict and disaster zones. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Save the Children alleges in a new report that boys and girls as young as six years old are victims of widespread sexual abuse perpetrated by aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers, but that they are often too afraid to report it.
Mr. Ban said the allegations are serious and the U.N. will investigate. "I have made it always clear that my policy on this sexual exploitation abuse cases is 'zero tolerance'. We will address this issue with the same level of emphasis. However, on all these cases, which have been raised, we will very carefully investigate and whenever there is necessary matters we will take necessary measures from this," he said.
Save the Children interviewed 129 girls and 121 boys between the ages of 10 and 17 in Southern Sudan, the Ivory Coast and Haiti. The study charges that aid workers and peacekeepers traded sex with young victims in exchange for food, money, soap and sometimes cell phones.
The United Nations maintains it is a very small proportion of international peacekeepers who are involved in such acts.
The world body deploys troops to many countries, but does not have the authority to discipline those that commit crimes. It can only send accused peacekeepers back to their home countries to be prosecuted.
But Mr. Ban did not shy away from the issue, saying the Save the Children study is very valuable and raised several good points.
Peacekeeping officials also addressed the report Tuesday, saying the British charity made a compelling case that reporting mechanisms need to be strengthened so that victims can speak out in safety.
The United Nations says that even one incident is one too many, and it is working hard to address the issue.