As if Haiti hasn’t suffered enough, a study has come out that talks about how United Nations (UN) peacekeepers that were in charge of protecting the disaster-struck nation mostly due to the 2010 earthquake and 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, saying that these men actually fathered hundreds of babies with both local women and girls as young as 11. And to make matters worse, they left these females to support and raise these babies alone, and in extreme poverty nonetheless.
A study was published by Sabine Lee of the University of Birmingham and Susan Bartels of Queen’s University. In the paper, they talk about the experiences of those said to be safeguarded and protected by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, otherwise known as MINUSTAH.
According to the researchers, their studies were based on at least 2,500 conversations with Haitians talking about the experiences of some of the women and girls that lived in the areas held by peace operations. They also said that of the 2,500 people they spoke with, at least 10% spoke about “stories about peacekeeper-fathered children.”
According to these stories, “Girls as young as 11 were sexually abused and impregnated” between the years 2004 to 2017. One man even described these women as “left in misery” to take care of their children alone, many getting kicked out of their homes and left to defend themselves and their young children with no help from anywhere.
These abandoned children have been given colloquial nicknames like “’Petit MINUSTAH’, ‘bébés casques bleus’ (blue helmet babies), or ‘les enfants abandonnés par la MINUSTAH’ (the children abandoned by the MINUSTAH),” which are all monikers that basically mean these children will have labels their entire lives.
When the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations was asked for a comment about whether they are taking “the issues raised in the study seriously,” Secretary General António Guterres said, “We have unfortunately seen cases involving MINUSTAH peacekeepers over the past years, although allegations have been generally declining since 2013.”
One of the conversations between the researchers and one of the Haitians proved a harsh reality, where they shared, “They put a few coins in your hands to drop a baby in you.” But for girls that had no other way to earn money or know where to get their next meal, it was a difficult means to a very sad end.
This isn’t the first time that a UN mission has been riddled in controversy, considering their mission in Haiti has been one of the longest so far. In fact, the MINUSTAH was already linked to a former sex ring in Haiti when 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were found to have used nine innocent children in their illegal workings from 2004 to 2007. And before that, back in 2010, Nepalese soldiers had caused a cholera outbreak that reputedly claimed at least 10,000 lives.
OxFam, a group whose tagline is “The power of people against poverty,” actually lost donors in the thousands last June after the group was accused of covering up an investigation. The accusation alleged that there were some staff members that paid for sex during the time they were in Haiti in 2010.
Even worse, the MINUSTAH has been implicated in a number of other horrific matters like “gang rape, the rape of a mentally challenged 14-year old boy, exploitation and unexplained deaths, torture” and more.
Some might remember that the United States Marines actually occupied Haiti between 1915 to 1934, and continue to be on the ground until today. Back when Bill Clinton was the President of the United States, a military operation in Haiti led by the U.S. called “Operation Uphold Democracy” ensued in order to remove the military regime that had taken over Haiti in the 1991 coup d’etat. But it is also notable that the Clintons “have a long and controversial relationship with the Caribbean nation.”
An article in The New York Times also highlights the fact that despite the studies’ authors not estimating the exact number of girls that were impregnated and left behind, but they did say that both aid workers and legal experts agree that “the problem has been pervasive, and that the United Nations has failed to assist the women.”
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