Deliver Us from Our Protectors: Accountability for Violations Committed by Humanitarian Aid Staff Against Refugee Women and Children

Saturday, August 1, 2009
Jan Rachel Reyes
Western Africa
Sierra Leone

Refugees - often forced from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back, then confined in camps and dependent on humanitarian aid - are among the most vulnerable groups in the world. According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees ("UNHCR"), refugee populations increased from 9.9 to 11.4 million during the year 2007. Women and children comprise the majority of this number and, because of their gender and age, are undoubtedly the most susceptible to exploitation by those in positions of money and power encountered during their flight.

In 2002, this exploitation was confirmed in a study commissioned by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK ("SC-UK") that found sexual exploitation of women and children was widespread throughout refugee camps in West Africa. To the shock of the international community, the report revealed that many of these violators were staff members of notable and large humanitarian agencies - the very people entrusted with the safety and protection of refugee rights. In Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia alone, almost seventy aid workers from forty agencies were allegedly involved.

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