In Brief

Why did UN not act over ‘sex-for-food’ charity scandal?

Unpublished report implicates 40 aid organisations whose workers traded food, oil and access to education for sex

Charity workers from international aid agencies have been implicated in a decade-long sex-for-food scandal, according to a UN report which was leaked to The Times but never formally published.

The 84-page document produced in 2001 for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), identified more than 40 aid organisations “whose workers are alleged to be in sexually exploitative relationships with refugee children” in camps in west Africa in the 1990s.

Refugee families told UNHCR researchers of sex regularly being traded for essentials such as food, oil, access to education and even plastic sheeting for shelters.

According to The Sun, charity workers in a camp in Guinea would tell women “a kilo of flour for sex”.

The list of organisations implicated includes the World Food Programme, Save the Children, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the International Rescue Committee, and the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.

Claims against 67 people were passed to senior UNHCR officials “in confidential lists”, however, The Times understands that fewer than ten were dismissed and none were prosecuted.

The latest revalations come just months are the international aid sector was rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct by Oxfam aid workers in the aftermath of the 2011 Haiti earthquake. Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, announced he would be stepping down last week in the wake of the scandal.

The Commons international development committee, which launched an inquiry into the sexual exploitation in the aid sector following the Oxfam allegations, has reportedly also been handed a copy of the UN report, which one member said was “very important to our inquiry because it shows the aid sector has had problems for many years but has failed to sort itself out and now is the time for renewal and reform”.

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