Haiti has been subject to one of the UN’s longest-running peacekeeping missions after a deadly hurricane and cyclone.
Haiti has been subject to one of the UN’s longest-running peacekeeping missions after a deadly hurricane and cyclone.

A new report has unearthed horrific claims about UN peacekeepers and their predatory behaviour with children as young as 11.

United Nations (UN) peacekeepers charged with protecting the population in Haiti have fathered hundreds of babies with local women and children only to leave them in poverty, new research has found.

A new paper published by the University of Birmingham’s Sabine Lee and Queen’s University’s Susan Bartels details the shocking experience of those supposedly living under the protection of a UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

It found that hundreds of children were fathered by peacekeepers in the area, known locally in French as “Petit MINUSTAH”, “bébés casques bleus” (blue helmet babies) or “les enfants abandonnés par la MINUSTAH” (the children who are abandoned by the MINUSTAH).

The colloquial term suggests rather than being isolated, it’s a distinct group that could face unique challenges in future.

UN peacekeepers patrol in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in a 2010 picture. The men pictured are not involved in the recent study. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti.

The stories arose out of a study that involved talking to around 2500 Haitians about the experiences of women and girls in the communities that host peace operations.

They were spoken to by trained researchers and were not prompted to talk about sexual abuse or exploitation. However of the 2500 asked, 265 – or around 10 per cent – revealed stories about peacekeeper fathered children.

“They abused many of our families,” one male from Saint Marc told the study.

“They may seem like they love you, they drop a few coins in your hands, after they sleep with you, when they put a few coins in your hand to drop a baby in you.

“Then, the child is in your arms, your family has nothing. All of this is the abuse of the MINUSTAH in the country,” he said.

Another married man from Cité Soleil said women often receive small amounts of money in exchange for sex:

“They come, they sleep with the women, they take their pleasures with them, they leave children in their hands, give them 500 gourdes,” he said.

Another man from Port Salut reported: “They had sex with the girls not even for money, it’s just for food, for one meal.”

Women walk protecting themself from the rain in Les Cayes, in the southwest of Haiti, after a deadly hurricane in 2016.

Professor Lee and Ms Bartels published their findings in The Conversation and said there were stories of girls as young as 11 who were impregnated and “left in misery” once the pregnancy becomes public.

The fact the stories were not asked about specifically but volunteered by locals, also suggests it could be more widespread than initially thought.

The UN operation in Haiti ran from 2004 to 2017 and is one of the longest and most controversial in UN history. It began to help Haitians with political instability and crime but was extended due to a 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 before ending in October 2017.

One woman from Port Salut told the researchers she was in a relationship with a peacekeeper who was forced to return home because of what happened – a routine punishment under the UN.

“I started to talk to him, then he told me he loved me and I agreed to date him. Three months later, I was pregnant, and in September he was sent to his country … The child is growing up, and it’s myself and my family that are struggling with him. I now have to send him to school. They put him out because I’m unable to pay for it.”

People walking down a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. They are not involved in the recent study.

One man from Cap Haitian said the soldiers “destroy these young girls’ futures by getting them pregnant with a couple of babies and abandoning them.”

“Basically, these actions of the soldiers can have a negative impact on the society and on the country in general because these young girls could have been lawyers, doctors or anything that would have helped Haiti tomorrow … Now some of them are walking in the street, or in the flea market and other places with a basket over their head selling oranges, peppers, and other goods in order to raise children they have with the MINUSTAH soldiers.”

MINUSTAH has been previously linked to a sex ring in Haiti in which 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers exploited nine children in a sex ring from 2004 to 2007.

A UN peace operations spokesperson said the organisation takes the issues raised seriously.

“Combating sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by personnel serving under the United Nations flag, whether in peacekeeping or special political missions, other United Nations entities or non-United Nations international forces authorized by a Security Council mandate, is a priority collective effort for the United Nations.”

“The UN remains committed to addressing and resolving cases of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its personnel and supporting victims and their families. This is amongst the Secretary-General’s top priorities. We have unfortunately seen cases involving MINUSTAH peacekeepers over the past years, although allegations have been generally declining since 2013.” Continue reading

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