By William Madouk Garang
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutterres has ordered for an urgent report detailing the actions taken by UN country team against aid workers who are finger pointed in sexual crimes in Upper Nile State.
The comments by Gutterres come after a joint probe by The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera on Wednesday that found that UN peacekeepers, agencies staff and aid-workers continued sexual abuse on civilians at Malakal Protection of Civilians Sites.
The investigation titled “alleged sex abuse by aid workers unchecked for years in UN-run South Sudan camp” first emerged in 2015, two years after the civil war.
Aid workers with organizations such as the (International Organization for Migration) IOM, Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision were among the alleged perpetrators, with allegations including rape and sexual abuse of minors, as well as pressuring women and girls to have sex for gifts, and other examples of exploitation.
Reacting to the report, UN Chief Gutterres said he is shocked by the allegations and demanded for urgent action report being taken by the UN Country team to address sexual exploitation and abuses.
“The Secretary-General is appalled by these allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse which causes irreparable harm to victims and their families,” Guterres’s spokesperson said in a reply statement.
UN Chief further adds “ he has asked for an urgent report on the immediate actions being taken by the UN Country team to address sexual exploitation and abuse across our operations in South Sudan and ensure accountability.”
Published on its website early Thursday, The New Humanitarian quoted camp residents saying the UN peacekeepers paid bribes for access to women living at the protection of civilians’ site.
WFP has admitted that it had received six allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against its staff in South Sudan – two in 2019, one in 2020, and three in 2021.
Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration also told The New Humanitarian that it had received 11 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against its workers in Malakal since 2017.
In the report, Malakal PoC residents said, sexual exploitation, mostly perpetrated by humanitarian workers, was being experienced “on a daily basis.”
It said the UN and NGO workers rented houses in the camps to have sex with women while the UN peacekeepers were paying bribes to gain access to women.
Camp residents also said three girls had been raped and impregnated by a teacher in 2018 – some schools in the camp are supported by UN agencies and NGOs.
Although aid officials have often fired workers if sexual abuse cases are found to be substantiated, referring cases like rape for criminal prosecution is more difficult.
According to a UN database, since 2016, the UN has referred only two cases to South Sudan’s government.