May 10, 2006
Sobering news from a recent Save the Children report indicates that aid workers and UN peacekeeping troops continue to trade food for sex with young Liberian girls:
Despite commitments made in 2002 by non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and peacekeepers to improve the worldwide monitoring of recruitment and staff conduct, vulnerable children are still exchanging sex for basic necessities such as money to attend school or food to feed their families.It is abhorrent that development officials who are charged with reconstructing a country are not able to get their act together and monitor the hormonally driven troops and aid workers while they go about their business - that is development, not sex. The problem doesnâ€™t stop there; the extra-curricular activities of our development set, while they go about restoring peace and building the nation are also contributing to a growing problem of HIV/AIDS. Liberiaâ€™s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson has publicly acknowledged that this situation has propelled the HIV infection rate to 12 percent. Without wasting any time, President Sirleaf and her Minister of Health have redrafted their national HIV/AIDS plan (prompted in part by a brief from our colleague Steve Radelet) and are bringing this issue to the attention of global players in the HIV/AIDS world. President Sirleaf appeared in Chicago yesterday to accept thousands of rapid HIV test kits from Abbot Laboratories (prior to a taping at Oprah!), leaving no doubt that the development and reconstructive efforts in Liberia will now aggressively tackle the growing HIV/AIDS problem. But will she be able to prevent Developmentâ€™s accompanying destruction?
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