Martha was impregnated by a soldier. Foto: SVT

200 children sexually abused by UN personnel

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Uppdrag granskning ·

In the Central African Republic alone, at least 200 children have been sexually abused by soldiers working on UN assignment. One of them is Martha, who at age 14 was impregnated by a soldier 20 years her senior.

It’s Sunday morning when Uppdrag granskning meets Martha. She is just 15, but already has a little boy just over a year old. The boy’s father is a former UN soldier. Martha met him in the refugee camp she fled to after her father was murdered and her mother became mentally ill.

“He said he wanted to marry me. That’s why… And then he said he’d help me to support my mother in hospital,” says Martha.

Learn more: Abused by soldiers – forced to live on the street

Life changed forever

But that never happened. When the UN found out that the soldier had sexually abused a child, they acted quickly. The man was arrested, imprisoned and sent home. But Martha was already pregnant – and during the pregnancy she also got the terrible news that she was HIV positive. Her son is not infected, and the doctors believe she can have a long life with the disease. But her life has been changed forever, and she misses going to school.

“I miss it a lot, I would have loved to go back this year,” Martha says.

UNICEF is aware of Martha’s case. And she’s not the only child who fell victim to abuse by UN personnel. UNICEF has a protection programme for these children. In the Central African Republic alone, it includes 200 children.

“Blue helmet babies”

Uppdrag granskning has access to a list of the past three years’ reported cases of abuse suspected to have been committed by UN personnel. Children are the victims in half of the 80 reported cases. In nine cases, the suspected abuse left the girls pregnant. The UN even has a name for these infants – “peacekeeper babies” or “blue helmet babies”. There is much evidence to indicate that these abuses against children are still occurring.

Why can’t you stop this?

“You’re asking a very important question… We are in the process of establishing control systems to aggressively investigate. We have a rapid-response team in place. We won’t stop until the very last perpetrators are gone,” says the new head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga.

His challenge is now to clean up in the organisation and restore the UN’s reputation.

Damaged faith in the UN

But for Martha and her family, their trust and faith in the United Nations has been badly damaged. After questioning Martha, the UN gave her a sack of rice, some milk, sugar and the equivalent of SEK 145 (EUR 15.40). Since then, neither UNICEF nor the UN have contacted her.

“At first, UNICEF said they would make sure the soldier was imprisoned and would take care of both mother and baby to help us. But since then… Nothing. No one came, that’s it. It was up to us to take care of the baby. They just gave us a gift,” says Martha’s big sister Miriélle to Uppdrag granskning.

So both UNICEF and the UN are aware of Martha’s story, but they have done nothing to help her.

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