Aid workers sent to conflict zones representing the United Nations and international charities routinely sexually assault the very people they are sent to help, a former aid worker has claimed.
An investigation by the BBC revealed that that the exploitation is so widespread in Syria that some women refuse to go to aid distribution centres because they assume they had had to offer their bodies to the male workers before they can receive aid to take home.
One worker claimed that some humanitarian agencies ignore the exploitation because using third parties and local officials was the only way of getting aid into dangerous parts of Syria that international staff could not access.
Charity adviser Danielle Spencer says Syrian women made the latest allegations in a Jordanian refugee camp in 2015.
“They were withholding aid that had been delivered and then using these women for sex,” she told the BBC.
Danielle added: “I remember one woman crying in the room and she was very upset about what she had experienced. It was so endemic that they couldn’t actually go without being stigmatised.
“It was assumed that if you go to these distributions, that you will have performed some kind of sexual act in return for aid. Sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls has been ignored, it’s been known about and ignored for seven years.
“The UN and the system as it currently stands have chosen for women’s bodies to be sacrificed.”
The claims follow recent allegations of sexual assault and rape made against foreign aid workers in Haiti and South Sudan.
As Breitbart News reported, British charity Oxfam was called to account over accusations it covered up a scandal involving its aid workers in Haiti, which has put government funding at risk and threatens its global reputation.
Oxfam has denied covering up misconduct allegations against staff members accused of using prostitutes in Haiti following a devastating 2010 earthquake, but admits it could have been more transparent.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found humanitarian assistance was being traded for sex in Syria last year.
According to the BBC report, UNFPA conducted an assessment of gender based violence in Syria and concluded that “humanitarian assistance was being exchanged for sex in various governorates in Syria.” The report, entitled “Voices from Syria 2018”, said:
Examples were given of women or girls marrying officials for a short period of time for ‘sexual services’ in order to receive meals; distributors asking for telephone numbers of women and girls; giving them lifts to their houses ‘to take something in return’ or obtaining distributions ‘in exchange for a visit to her home’ or ‘in exchange for services, such as spending a night with them’.
Women and girls ‘without male protectors’, such as widows and divorcees as well as female IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), were regarded as particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
The scandal-hit charity sector has long promised to put its own house in order, however on the evidence very little has been done to fulfill that obligation.
That means the only option available to governments is to turn off the flow of money.
The British government has cut off funding to Oxfam following the aid worker sex scandal, until the charity can show it has made significant reforms.
As Breitbart London reported, International Development secretary Penny Mordaunt said Oxfam is barred from receiving public money until the Department for International Development (DfID) is satisfied that they can meet the “high standards we expect”.
Since the Oxfam scandal was made public, other NGOs have admitted receiving reports of sexual abuse including Austrian children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages and Doctors Without Borders. The latter organisation, which has been accused of working with criminal gangs in their work ferrying migrants to Europe from the Libyan coast, said it fired 19 workers last year following sexual abuse allegations.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org