LONDON: A Save the Children UK report released on Tuesday alleges rampant sexual abuse of children at the hands of peacekeepers and international aid workers in war zones and disaster areas.
The report said more than half the children interviewed knew of cases of coerced sex and improper sexual touching and that in many instances children knew of 10 or more such incidents carried out by aid workers or peacekeepers.
In some cases, children as young as 6 years old were abused, the report said.
The study is based on research, confidential interviews and focus groups conducted last year in three places with a substantial international aid presence: southern Sudan, Haiti, and Ivory Coast.
The group said it did not produce comprehensive statistics about the scale of abuse but did gather enough information to prove that the problem is severe.
"The report shows sexual abuse has been widely under- reported because children are afraid to come forward," Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, said.
"A tiny proportion of peacekeepers and aid workers are abusing the children they were sent to protect. It ranges from sex for food to coerced sex. It's despicable."
The researchers, who met with 129 girls and 121 boys between the ages of 10 and 17, and also with a number of adults, found an "overwhelming" majority of the people interviewed would never report cases of abuse and has never heard of a case being reported.