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Unicef sets up programme to prevent sex abuse by aid workers

Agencies working to relieve famine in southern Africa have embarked on a comprehensive training scheme to educate employees to avoid child abuse. The inter-agency taskforce, consisting of Unicef, Save the Children, and the World Food Programme, have embarked on this educational scheme for both local and international staff. This is to prevent a repeat of the widespread sexual abuse of children by aid workers reported during the recent west African refugee crisis (Guardian, 2002, Feb 28, p 1 and Field Exchange, Issue 15, p15).

Stressing the UN policy of 'zero tolerance', Unicef Zambia's representative Stella Goings stated how appalled the humanitarian aid community were when news of the sex for aid scandal in west Africa first broke. She warned that the impact of the drought across southern Africa has been worsened by AIDS, which has ravaged not just millions of lives and livelihoods across the region but destroyed normal family life, leaving children open to abuse. Citing the case of Zambia, she reported how traditional coping mechanisms such as the extended family have been eroded by the dual impact of AIDS and poverty. Child headed households and grandmothers are sometimes the only remnants of entire families and are highly vulnerable to abuse, with no one to offer protection and guidance.

Moszynski P (2002) BMJ Vol 325, 5 Oct, p732

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Unicef sets up programme to prevent sex abuse by aid workers. Field Exchange 17, November 2002. p18. www.ennonline.net/fex/17/unicef

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