Playing both sides of the fence?

Yesterday, 26 February 2008, Terre des Hommes Switzerland presented a new report Adoption: at what cost? 

Terre des hommes – child relief (Tdh), in this most recent publication, presents a comparative study on the ethical responsibility of receiving countries of intercountry adoption. Focus has been given for many years on the practices of the countries of origin. They have been found to be too lax or too corrupt, and considered to be responsible for the downward slide in standards for intercountry adoption. In this publication, Terre des hommes – child relief (Tdh), under a mandate by Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF), shows how the receiving countries also have a certain responsibility. With procedures and legislation which have little, if any, respect to the interests of the child, and policies which tend to respond to the demands of adopting couples or put pressure on the countries of origin in order to obtain children, the receiving countries do not respect the engagements they undertook by ratifying the Hague Convention on international adoption. It is the Hague Convention itself which aims to avoid these types of dysfunction. Terre des hommes – child relief presents the results of a comparative study on the practices and legislations in six European receiving countries: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.

While this all sounds wise and compassionate and although Marlene Hoffstetter has written about child trafficking and illegal adoption in the 2004 paper International Adoption, The Global Baby Chace (we assume a misspelling for chase), Mrs Hoffstetter herself is responsible for the adoptions done by Terre des Homme Switzerland. That by itself places this report in a different light, especially since her agency works together with Missionarie della Carita (Missionary of Charity Sisters). The former is probably less known than its founder, the both famous and infamous Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa's orphanages in India have been a long standing source for international adoption and are known to have a shady track record. Why is it Terre des Homme Switzerland as of this day has been doing business with the Charity Sisters for twenty years, while at the same time publishes reports on child trafficking. Would the stipend of $500,000 from USAID have anything to do with that? Is it just business at both sides of the fence?

We attached a document that contains a detailed expose of the business of the Charity Sisters.

the_knut_case.pdf377.62 KB

Mother T




Walter Wuellenweber

The Angel of the poor died a year ago. Donations still flow in to her Missionaries of Charity like to no other cause. But the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize vowed to live in poverty. What then, happened to so much money?

If there is a heaven, then she is surely there: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu from Skopje in Macedonia, better known as Mother Teresa. She came to Calcutta on the 6th of Januray 1929 as an 18 year old sister of the Order of Loreto. 68 years later luminaries from all over the world assembled in Calcutta in order to honour her with a state funeral. In these 68 years she had founded the most successful order in the history of the Catholic church, received the Nobel Peace Prize and became the most famous Catholic of our time.

Are doubts permitted, regarding this "monument"?

In Calcutta, one meets many doubters.

For example, Samity, a man of around 30 with no teeth, who lives in the slums. He is one of the "poorest of the poor" to whom Mother Teresa was supposed to have dedicated her life. With a plastic bag in hand, he stands in a kilometre long queue in Calcutta's Park Street. The poor wait patiently, until the helpers shovel some rice and lentils into their bags. But Samity does not get his grub from Mother Teresa's institution, but instead from the Assembly of God, an American charity, that serves 18000 meals here daily.

"Mother Teresa?"says Samity, "We have not received anything from her here. Ask in the slums -- who has received anything from the sisters here -- you will find hardly anybody."

Pannalal Manik also has doubts. "I don't understand why you educated people in the West have made this woman into such a goddess!" Manik was born some 56 years ago in the Rambagan slum, which at about 300 years of age, is Calcutta's oldest. What Manik has achieved, can well be called a "miracle". He has built 16 apartment buildings in the midst of the slum -- living space for 4000 people. Money for the building materials -- equivalent to DM 10000 per apartment building -- was begged for by Manik from the Ramakrishna Mission [a Indian/Hindu charity], the largest assistance-organisation in India. The slum-dwellers built the buildings themselves. It has become a model for the whole of India. But what about Mother Teresa? "I went to her place 3 times," said Manik. "She did not even listen to what I had to say. Everyone on earth knows that the sisters have a lot of money. But no one knows what they do with it!"

In Calcutta there are about 200 charitable organisations helping the poor. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity are not amongst the biggest helpers: that contradicts the image of the organisation. The name "Mother Teresa" was and is tied to the city of Calcutta. All over the world admirers and supporters of the Nobel Prize winner believe that it must be there that her organisation is particularly active in the fight against poverty. "All lies," says Aroup Chatterjee . The doctor who lives in London was born and brought up in Calcutta. Chatterjee who has been working for years on a book on the myth of Mother Teresa, speaks to the poor in the slums of Calcutta, or combs through the speeches of the Nobel Prize winner. "No matter where I search, I only find lies. For example the lies about schools. Mother T has often stated that she runs a school in Calcutta for more than 5000 children. 5000 children! -- that would have to be a huge school, one of the biggest in all of India. But where is this school? I have never found it, nor do I know anybody who has seen it!" says Chatterjee.

Compared to other charitable organisations in Calcutta, the nuns with the 3 blue stripes are ahead in two respects: they are world famous, and, they have the most money. But how much exactly, has always been a closely guarded secret of the organisation. Indian law requires charitable organisations to publish their accounts. Mother Teresa's organisation ignores this prescription! It is not known if the Finance Ministry in Delhi who would be responsible for charities' accounts, have the actual figures. Upon STERN's inquiry, the Ministry informed us that this particular query was listed as "classified information".

The organisation has 6 branches in Germany. Here too financial matters are a strict secret. "It's nobody's business how much money we have, I mean to say how little we have," says Sr Pauline, head of the German operations. Maria Tingelhoff had had handled the organisation's book-keeping on a voluntary basis until 1981. "We did see 3 million a year," she remembers. But Mother Teresa never quite trusted the worldly helpers completely. So the sisters took over the financial management themselves in 1981. "Of course I don't know how much money went in, in the years after that, but it must be many multiples of 3 million," estimates Mrs Tingelhoff. "Mother was always very pleased with the Germans."

Perhaps the most lucrative branch of the organisation is the "Holy Ghost" House in New York's Bronx. Susan Shields served the order there for a total of nine and a half years as Sister Virgin. "We spent a large part of each day writing thank you letters and processing cheques," she says. "Every night around 25 sisters had to spend many hours preparing receipts for donations. It was a conveyor belt process: some sisters typed, others made lists of the amounts, stuffed letters into envelopes, or sorted the cheques. Values were between $5 and $100.000. Donors often dropped their envelopes filled with money at the door. Before Christmas the flow of donations was often totally out of control. The postman brought sackfuls of letters -- cheques for $50000 were no rarity." Sister Virgin remebers that one year there was about $50 million in a New York bank account. $50 million in one year! -- in a predominantly non-Catholic country. How much then, were they collecting in Europe or the world? It is estimated that worldwide they collected at least $100 million per year -- and that has been going on for many many years.

While the income is utter secret, the expenditures are equally mysterious. The order is hardly able to spend large amounts. The establishments supported by the nuns are so tiny (inconspicuous) that even the locals have difficulty tracing them. Often "Mother Teresa's Home" means just a living accomodation for the sisters, with no charitable funstion. Conspicuous or useful assistance cannot be provided there. The order often receives huge donations in kind, in addition to the monetary munificence. Boxes of medicines land at Indian airports. Donated foograins and powdered milk arrive in containers at Calcutta port. Clothing donations from Europe and the US arrive in unimaginable quantities. On Calcutta's pavement stalls, traders can be seen sellin used western labels for 25 rupees (DM1) apiece. Numerous traders call out, "Shirts from Mother, trousers from Mother."

Unlike with other charities, the Missionaries of Charity spend very little on their own management, since the organisation is run at practically no cost. The approximately 4000 sisters in 150 countries form the most treasured workforce of all global multi-million dollar operations. Having taken vows of poverty and obedience, they work for no pay, supported by 300,000 good citizen helpers.

By their own admission, Mother Teresa's organisation has about 500 locations worldwide. But for purchase or rent of property, the sisters do not need to touch their bank accounts. "Mother always said, we don't spend for that," remembers Sunita Kumar, one the richest women in Calcutta and supposedly Mother T's closest associate outside the order. "If Mother needed a house, she went straight to the owner, whether it was the State or a private person, and worked on him for so long that she eventually got it free."

Her method was also successful in Germany.In March the "Bethlehem House" was dedicated in Hamburg, a shelter for homeless women. Four sisters work there. The archtecturally conspicuous building cost DM2.5 million. The fortunes of the order have not spent a penny toward the amount. The money was collected by a Christian association in Hamburg. With Mother T as figure head it was naturally short work to collect the millions.

Mother Teresa saw it as as her God given right never to have to pay anyone for anything. Once she bought food for her nuns in London for GB£500. When she was told she'd have to pay at the till, the diminutive seemingly harmless nun showed her Balkan temper and shouted, "This is for the work of God!" She raged so loud and so long that eventually a businessman waiting in the queue paid up on her behalf.

England is one of the few countries where the sisters allow the authorities at least a quick glance at their accounts. Here the order took in DM5.3 million in 1991. And expenses (including charitable expenses)? -- around DM360,000 or less than 7%. Whatever happened to the rest of the money? Sister Teresina, the head for England, defensively states, "Sorry we can't tell you that." Every year, according to the returns filed with the British authorities, a portion of the fortune is sent to accounts of the order in other countries. How much to which countries is not declared. One of the recipients is however, always Rome. The fortune of this famous charitable organistaion is controlled from Rome, -- from an account at the Vatican bank. And what happens with monies at the Vatican Bank is so secret that even God is not allowed to know about it. One thing is sure however -- Mother's outlets in poor countries do not benefit from largesse of the rich countries. The official biographer of Mother Teresa, Kathryn Spink, writes, "As soon as the sisters became established in a certain country, Mother normally withdrew all financial support." Branches in very needy countries therefore only receive start-up assistance. Most of the money remains in the Vatican Bank.

STERN asked the Missionaries of Charity numerous times for information about location of the donations, both in writing as well in person during a visit to Mother Teresa's house in Calcutta. The order has never answered.

"You should visit the House in New York, then you'll understand what happens to donations," sayssays Eva Kolodziej. The Polish lady was a Missionary of Charity for 5 years. "In the cellar of the homeless shelter there are valuable books, jewellery and gold. What happens to them? -- The sisters receive them with smiles, and keep them. Most of these lie around uselessly forever."

The millions that are donated to the order have a similar fate. Susan Shields (formerly Sr Virgin) says, "The money was not misused, but the largest part of it wasn't used at all. When there was a famine in Ethiopia, many cheques arrived marked 'for the hungry in Ethiopia'. Once I asked the sister who was in charge of accounts if I should add up all those very many cheques and send the total to Ethiopia. The sister answered, 'No, we don't send money to Africa.' But I continued to make receipts to the donors, 'For Ethiopia'."

By the accounts of former sisters, the finances are a one way street. "We were always told, the fact that we receive more than other orders, shows that God loves Mother Teresa more. ," says Susan Shields. Donations and hefty bank balances are a measure of God's love. Taking is holier than giving.

The sufferers are the ones for whom the donations were originally intended. The nuns run a soup kitchen in New York's Bronx. Or, to put in straight, they have it run for them, since volunteer helpers organise everything, including food. The sisters might distribute it. Once, Shields remembers, the helpers made an organisational mistake, so they could not deliver bread with their meals. The sisters asked their superior if they could buy the bread. "Out of the question -- we are a poor organisation." came the reply. "In the end, the poor did not get their bread," says Shields. Shields has experienced countless such incidents. One girl from communion class did not appear for her first communion because her mothet could not buy her a white communion dress. So she had to wait another year; but as that particular Sunday approached, she had the same problem again. Shields (Sr Virgin) asked the superior if the order could buy the girl a white dress. Again, she was turned down -- gruffly. The girl never had her first communion.

Because of the tightfistedness of the rich order, the "poorest of the poor" -- orphans in India -- suffer the most. The nuns run a home in Delhi, in which the orphans wait to be adopted by, in many cases, by foreigners. As usual, the costs of running the home are borne not by the order, but by the future adoptive parents. In Germany the organisation called Pro Infante has the monopoly of mediation role for these children. The head, Carla Wiedeking, a personal friend of Mother Teresa's, wrote a letter to Donors, Supporters and Friends which ran:

"On my September vist I had to witness 2 or 3 children lying in the same cot, in totally overcrowded rooms with not a square inch of playing space. The behavioural problems arising as a result cannot be overlooked." Mrs Wiedeking appeals to the generosity of supporters in view of her powerlessness in the face of the children's great needs. Powerlessness?! In an organisation with a billion-fortune, which has 3 times as much money available to it as UNICEF is able to spend in all of India? The Missionaries of Charity has have the means to buy cots and build orphanages, -- with playgrounds. And they have enoungh money not only for a handful orphans in Delhi but for many thousand orphans who struggle for survival in the streets of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.

Saving, in Mother Teresa's philosophy, was a central value in itself. All very well, but as her poor organisation quickly grew into a rich one, what did she do with her pictures, jewels, inherited houses, cheques or suitcases full of money? If she wished to she could now cater to people not by obsessively indulging in saving, but instead through well thought-out spending. But the Nobel Prize winner did not want an efficient organisation that helped people efficiently. Full of pride, she called the Missionaries of Charity the "most disorganised organisation in the world". Computers, typewriters, photocopiers are not allowed. Even when they are donated, they are not allowed to be installed. For book-keeping the sisters use school notebooks, in which they write in cramped pencilled figures. Until they are full. Then everything is erased and the notebook used again. All in order to save.

For a sustainable charitable system, it would have been sensible to train the nuns to become nurses, teachers or managers. But a Missionary of Charity nun is never trained for anything further.

Fueklled by her desire for un-professionalism, Mother Teresa decisions from year to year became even more bizarre. Once, says Susan Shields, the order bought am empty building from the City of New York in order to look after AIDS patients. Purchase price: 1 dollar. But since handicapped people would also be using the house, NY City management insisted on the installation of a lift (elevator). The offer of the lift was declined: to Mother they were a sign of wealth. Finally the nuns gave the building back to the City of New York.

While the Missionaries of Charity have already witheld help from the starving in Ethiopia or the orphans in India -- despite having received donations in their names -- there are others who are being actively harmed by the organisation's ideology of disorganisation. In 1994, Robin Fox, editor of the prestigious medical journal Lancet, in a commentary on the catastrophic conditions prevailing in Mother Teresa's homes, shocked the professional world by saying that any systematic operation was foreign to the running of the homes in India: TB patients were not isolated, and syringes were washed in lukewarm water before being used again. Even patients in unbearable pain were refused strong painkillers, not because the order did not have them, but on principle. "The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the suffering of Christ," said Mother Teresa. Once she had tried to comfort a screaming sufferer, "You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you." The sufferer screamed back, furious, "Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me."

The English doctor Jack Preger once worked in the home for the dying. He says, "If one wants to give love, understanding and care, one uses sterile needles. This is probably the richest order in the world. Many of the dying there do not have to be dying in a strictly medical sense." The British newspaper Guardian described the hospice as an "organised form of neglectful assistance".

It seems that the medical care of the orphans is hardly any better. In 1991 the head of Pro Infante in Germany sent a newsletter to adoptive parents:"Please check the validity of the vaccinations of your children. We assume that in some case they have been vaccinated with expired vaccines, or with vaccines that had been rendered useless by improper strotage conditions." All this points to one thing, something that Mother Teresa reiterated very frequently in her speeches and addresses -- that she far more concerened with life after death than the mortal life.

Mother Teresa's business was : Money for a good conscience. The donors benefitted the most from this. The poor hardly. Whosoever believed that Mother Teresa wanted to cahnge the world, eliminate suffering or fight poverty, simply wanted to believe it for their own sakes. Such people did not listen to her. To be poor, to suffer was a goal, almost an ambition or an achievement for her and she imposed this goal upon those under her wings; her actual ordained goal was the hereafter.

With growing fame, the founder of the order became somewhat conscious of the misconceptioons on which the Mother Teresa phenomenon was based. She wrote a few words and hung them outside Mother House:

"Tell them we are not here for work, we are here for Jesus. We are religious above all else. We are not social workers, not teachers, not doctors. We are nuns."

One question then remains: For what, in that case, do nuns need so much money?

An oath of poverty?

I don't know where to begin.  <shaking head>

Ok, how about this statement: 

"The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the suffering of Christ," said Mother Teresa. Once she had tried to comfort a screaming sufferer, "You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you." The sufferer screamed back, furious, "Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me."

Correct me if I'm wrong, because I am by no means an expert on the Bible, but didn't Jesus show compassion for those who were sick and wounded, relieving them from their pain through miracles of recovery, and didn't he die for our sins, so we would NOT have to suffer?

I had to laugh, because

I had to laugh, because growing-up, I noticed how the priests lived in one house,  on one side of the church we attended, and the nuns lived in a house on the other side of the church.  The nun's house was scary looking, but the priest's house was cheerful looking, with the door always open and an overhang over the small porch.

I remember asking my dad, "Do the priests have to pay rent to live there?".  He said priests didn't have to pay anything.  Seeing the collection baskets at the end of services, I believed it!

For the longest time I wanted to be a priest because of all the special social perks they seemed to get.  It wasn't until I was told I'd have to be a nun, that I lost all interest in working for the church. 

Terre des hommes - hypocrites

Saying to act against the trafficking of children - with major EU funding,  while doing adoptions from an 'organisation' that has a bad reputation (well documented as we now know) , is at the very least disputable. If not clearly hypocrite.

Speechless I am.

Terre des Hommes' amici

Trying to find an explanation for the sudden appearance of Terre des Hommes in the European adoption arena, a short google brought the answer:


For those who do not master italian, I can tell you that Amici is one of the most fervent promotors of European adoptions. They want the setting up of a European Database of adoptable children. And they do not even hide what there objective is: reopening Romanian adoptions.

In order to get the public on their side, Amici continues to spread the gospel of 'abandoned Romanian children'.

74.000 abandoned children - based on a recent report of Unicef.

BUT - little angels wispered me that this Unicef report does not exist.

With friends like AMICI DEI BAMBINI, who needs enemies??

What THEY want

I had to read this a few times:

Amici is one of the most fervent promotors of European adoptions. They want the setting up of a European Database of adoptable children. And they do not even hide what there objective is: reopening Romanian adoptions.

What THEY want is a piece of the profits other places, like the USA, are making.  They want to find their food-source, and start selling, because the demand is not showing any worrysome signs of decline.

The question is, how well did these people do their homework?  Only recently has the United States started to recognize the costly connection between child abuse and child placement.  How many European countries can afford our medical bills and crime rate ?

Seems to me, someone isn't looking at numbers that should NOT be overlooked.

Global market

With eleven offices in Italy and twelve foreign offices in ten countries, Amici dei Bambini already very well knows how to make a buck on the adoption market. Not only are they one of the largest agencies in Italy, they also know their way to the European Commission, having received grants for "Prevention and fight against child trafficking in Albania in the form of illegal and commercial adoption" and "Life after Institutional Care Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion for Young People Identification and Promotion of Best Practices", to name only two of projects they were awarded by Brussels. With their wordwide presence and influence Amici dei Bambini is very much comparable to American agencies such as Holt and Bethany Christian Services: a big player on a global market.

TdH pedophiles

I could not help googling this people a bit more. And yes, setting up children's homes instead of helping the families. And no proper monitoring - but  let children get exploited. It makes me sooooo sick to read the same issues over and over again!  Anyone knowing what happened to these children since?????????????/

Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Ethiopian orphans to sue charity

Starving children during drought
The 1984 drought left many children orphaned
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

A group of orphaned Ethiopian boys is demanding a formal apology and compensation from a Swiss children's agency under whose care they have been living.

The 30 boys claim they have endured almost 15 years of physical, sexual and verbal abuse while under the care of Terre Des Hommes, which runs a home for Ethiopian children orphaned by the 1984 drought.

The boys, who call themselves "TDH Victims", say they now plan to hire a lawyer and take the organisation to court.

The boys, aged between 13 and 22, say they have spent almost all their lives in the orphanage.

Psychological problems

A British national who ran the Jari Children's Village from 1994 to 1997 is currently facing charges of paedophilia.

But the boys claim there were also other alleged paedophiles, which the organisation failed to report to the Ethiopian police.

The boys accuse the organisation of offering little rehabilitation, support or compensation to the children under their care and say they are now suffering from deep psychological problems.

Living in a society where boys are blamed for their own abuse, TDH victims say they have been accused of homosexuality and are now ostracised by the community.

Standing up

22-year-old Berihun Kebede says that although the boys are poor and have little chance of standing up to such a large organisation, they will do whatever it takes for the truth to prevail.

Colin Tucker, who represents Terre Des Hommes in Switzerland has denied the charges of neglect levelled against the organisation.

Mr Tucker however admitted that abuse had taken place at the orphanage, but claimed that proper rehabilitation and support was available to the abused children.

He said that the boys have been manipulated by detractors of the organisation to demand compensation.

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

White good old pedophiles

Don't bother finding out what happened. He got jailed. But most likely is free again. Keep an eye on him I would suggest. Those people are known to continue their works of charity.

Briton jailed in Ethiopia for child sex abuse

About this article

This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday August 08 2003 . It was last updated at 14:42 on August 08 2003.

A British paedophile exposed by the Guardian for abusing orphans of the Ethiopian famine was yesterday jailed for nine years with hard labour by a court in Addis Ababa after an apparent attempt to open another centre for children in Zambia.

David Christie, 62, was found guilty of abusing boys under 15 and of procuring boys for his friends. Originally from Bournemouth, Christie was the subject of a Guardian investigation in July 1999 which revealed that he had targeted a village set up to house orphans of the famine.

Christie was sacked by the agency, Terre des Hommes Lausanne (TdH), in 1997 after admitting an "improper sexual relationship" with one of the 300 children in his care. Other children in the village also made allegations of abuse.

The first criminal bench of the high court in Addis Ababa said Christie had also arranged for five boys to be abused by two of his friends, one of them a Briton. The court declared that Christie had abused boys daily for sev eral weeks at a time. It said he lured the boys by giving them sweets and promising them an education abroad.

Christie was arrested on an international warrant in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, and was in the process of being flown back to the UK, where he was then living, when he was arrested by Ethiopian authorities when the aircraft stopped to refuel in Addis Ababa.

Officers with Scotland Yard's paedophile unit had been monitoring his movements in London. After the Guardian allegations, he changed his name by deed poll to David Allen and obtained a passport. He could not be prosecuted because his offences predated the 1997 Sex Offenders Act, which enables British courts to try UK nationals for such crimes committed abroad.

But an associate of Christie's tipped officers off that he was planning to go to Zambia with the intention of working with children again.

In Ethiopia, Christie had been the head or "father" of Jari Children's Village, an eight-hour drive from the capital. There he was responsible for the welfare of more than 300 children. His associates - some known paedophiles - would visit the village and a number of allegations were made against them.

In 1999, a Guardian investigation discovered that it was not just in Jari that children were abused. Christie had ready access to young boys in Addis Ababa, where many children are forced to beg on the streets. At least a dozen boys were living at his house in the city. A number of these boys testified to the Guardian that they had been involved in inappropriate relationships with Christie and his friends.

One said: "Other kids can learn from what happened to us. The children in Jari don't know good from bad, and they think people are good just because they are white. Any white man to come was seen as a good man."

Det Supt Peter Spindler, head of Scotland Yard's child protection group, said: "This case is an example of how British police routinely work with international colleagues. This sends a strong message to any British paedophile who chooses to go and offend in countries where they think they are out of our grasp. They are not."

Colin Tucker, a spokesman for TdH, said the organisation welcomed the verdict, as it had been trying to prevent Christie's attempts to abuse other children. "The ongoing rehabilitation of the survivors of the abuse is of paramount importance to the foundation," he said. "This verdict serves as an important milestone for the children as they rebuild their lives. It will act as a serious deterrent to those who wish to exploit vulnerable children."

Christie's trial began in October 2001, but was postponed several times because of his ill health. The three-judge tribunal "categorically rejected" his request to be allowed to serve his sentence in Britain.

His lawyer said that Christie would likely be released from prison on good behaviour in 2007, and that he would appeal against the conviction.

TDH: The Damned Heathens

Mr Tucker however admitted that abuse had taken place at the orphanage, but claimed that proper rehabilitation and support was available to the abused children.

He said that the boys have been manipulated by detractors of the organisation to demand compensation.

"Proper rehabilitation and support".  Is it remotely understood what the combined effects parental loss AND sexual abuse have on these boys?  The damage will cause a life-time of triggering problems and responses, and authorities think this problem is being managed properly? Let's be conservative, and ask, how much would ten years of extensive therapy and quality treatment in Africa cost  30 males?  Who would be responsible for their life-long actions, as implied by the damage caused by neglect and sexual abuse?  Is there a dollar amount that compensates the corrupted lives of 30 (known) boys who dared to rally together and expose the evil that invaded their lives?  The only good news is they have been recognized by an organization of people who say, "What happened to you is NOT acceptable!"

What in God's Name is happening in this world, when money is more of a concerned issue than the long-term effects of abuse and neglect on a kid (or 30) wanting a safe place to live?

These boys will become men.  These men will be driven to act and behave as they have been taught through the examples they have been given during childhood and adolescence.  Without insightful intervention, these victims will follow the footsteps and patterns they find most familiar and typical. 

By all means, please sleep with THAT visual. 

Ruud Lubbers - no prob with Sex Scandal

'In a CNN interview in May 2002, Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that ‘we hardly find concrete evidence. It’s very scarce’, and doubted that the cases described in the report constituted exploitation at all: ‘(the) mother is only happy when it happens, because it is one person less to feed’; ‘mothers are just delighted when [their daughters] can find a husband’. '

The West Africa sex scandal

by Asmita Naik

The humanitarian world was rocked in 2002 by a UNHCR/Save the Children study which revealed a disturbing pattern of sexual exploitation of refugee children by aid workers and peacekeepers in West Africa.

This article argues that the gaps in accountability revealed by the scandal point to the need for a humanitarian watchdog.

In October 2001, a UNHCR/Save the Children assessment team visiting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone unexpectedly came across allegations of abuse by humanitarian workers during the course of a broader sociological study on sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children.

The study, begun with no intention of investigating aid workers, found these claims repeated in focus groups and interviews in all three countries, in camps hundreds of miles apart.

The team confidentially noted allegations concerning 67 perpetrators, 42 agencies, 40 child victims, and 80 separate sources, plus additional cases involving unnamed peacekeepers. Young girls reported exchanging sex for desperately-needed humanitarian assistance – biscuits, soap, medicines – or meagre sums of money.

The response of the humanitarian community

The report prompted an international outcry and a frenzy of media attention when it hit the headlines in February 2002. A record 30 delegations took the floor at a subsequent UNHCR Executive Committee meeting; some called the situation an ‘indictment of UNHCR’s protection regime’. After the initial furore, a mixed response emerged. On the one hand, the humanitarian world rallied to address the issues raised by the report.

Working groups were set up, including the Inter-agency Standing Committee Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises, chaired by UNICEF and OCHA. Meetings were held; missions conducted; and plans of action agreed.

Reports from UNICEF/Caritas Makeni, Interaction, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and others affirmed the reality of the problem. Donor governments set up an informal working group under the UNHCR Executive Committee to monitor progress.

Victims’ voices: testimonies of abuse from West Africa

‘I leave my child with my little sister, who is ten years old, and I dress good and I go where the NGO workers drink or live and one of them will ask me for sex, sometimes they give me things like food, oil, soap and I will sell them and get money’.

Refugee child

‘When ma asked me to go to the stream to wash plates, a peacekeeper asked me to take my clothes off so that he can take a picture. When I asked him to give me money he told me, no money for children only biscuit’.

Refugee child

‘They change girls so much and none of them marry the girls and if she becomes pregnant she is abandoned, with no support for herself and the child. Most of us used to just look at them and wonder. Our brothers, they have a problem’.

Aid worker

At the same time, there were also attempts to deny the validity of the claims of abuse. The UN discredited the report’s methodology and dismissed its findings.

In a CNN interview in May 2002, Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that ‘we hardly find concrete evidence. It’s very scarce’, and doubted that the cases described in the report constituted exploitation at all: ‘(the) mother is only happy when it happens, because it is one person less to feed’; ‘mothers are just delighted when [their daughters] can find a husband’.

The interviewer replied, ‘There’s no talk from the girls or UNHCR’s own report of anything even remotely approaching romance’. UNHCR staff were also dismayed; a memo to Lubbers from UNHCR’s staff association complained that his remarks ‘appeared to imply’ that ‘exploitation and abuse of power is culturally relative’, that ‘allegations of sexual exploitation are unfounded’ and that ‘the women and girls concerned are not to be believed’.

In October 2002, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) released a report which claimed that its follow-up investigation had found ‘no widespread abuse by aid workers’.

This prompted criticisms that the UN was trying to play down the matter, and raised questions about the adequacy of its follow-up. Save the Children UK, a partner in the original study, responded that ‘Nothing that the UN has found makes us think that we were wrong’.

The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) stated that the ‘objective of the UN inquiry was too limited’, and Human Rights Watch remarked that OIOS ‘was widely criticized as downplaying the problem’.

An unnamed UN official working to combat the problem told a women’s magazine: ‘the UN is not taking the problem seriously enough … the response has been a shrug, as if sex with kids by peacekeepers was a perk of the trade. We’re fighting a culture of sexism that exists even at UN headquarters’.

By this time, government outrage had all but dissipated and, despite serious concerns, few were willing to challenge the findings of the OIOS investigation.

Australia, Canada and New Zealand were among the few countries prepared to pose searching questions; in a joint statement to the General Assembly in March 2003, these governments asked: ‘Was the investigative lens too narrow? Is there any way to know if the findings would have been different if they were less narrow? … Was the necessary gender and children’s rights expertise participating? What arrangements were made for the confidentiality and protection of potential complainants?’. Very few news outlets covered the UN’s findings, and those that did appeared to accept the official line.


1. Very few perpetrators were disciplined

The OIOS documented 43 new allegations, and deemed that ten of these met the high burden of proof required to take action. Little action has been taken even on these 10 cases.

According to one UNHCR official: ‘It has been very difficult to obtain the dismissal of the ten aid workers involved in sexual exploitation or crimes from their respective employers in West Africa … The experience in West Africa and elsewhere suggests that several refugee aid organizations are still very reluctant to discipline their staff and tend to downplay the seriousness of some acts of misconduct. These remarks also apply to UNHCR’.

OIOS reported action on two cases: a UN worker had his contract terminated, and a UN peacekeeper was sent home (it is unknown if he was disciplined or charged). Save the Children took action against three workers.

The victims of more than 67 alleged perpetrators were left without any redress, as the OIOS claimed that it could not substantiate any of the allegations in the original assessment.

2. No perpetrators were criminally prosecuted

3. It is unknown whether victims and witnesses were adequately protected or compensated

4. No senior managers were held accountable for failing to respond to earlier reports

Sexual exploitation by aid workers had been brought to the attention of senior UNHCR managers in several reports, dating back to 1997.

5. No senior managers were held accountable for their handling of the allegations submitted by the assessment team

There is no indication that senior managers were held accountable for the way the allegations were dealt with, for instance as regards the quality of decision-making and levels of efficiency or commitment, or made answerable for diminishing the claims of abuse.

6. Some preventive measures are in place

There have been some new initiatives, for instance coordination measures, training and information campaigns, and sexual and gender-based violence programming. Some agencies adopted codes of conduct, though it is unclear whether these are legally binding or stringent enough, or whether they will actually be implemented.

Several agencies still do not have codes, and rules for refugee workers have not been established in many camps. Some aid agencies continue to believe that the private lives of their employees are their own business; according to a UNHCR official, the ‘principal gap’ remains the lack of ‘effective complaints mechanisms’.

7. There have been some improvements in beneficiary protection

The scandal had wider implications beyond sexual exploitation, and beyond West Africa. New scandals in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nepal resulted in swifter disciplinary action against perpetrators and managers, though some controversy surrounds these cases too.

An investigations unit has been established at UNHCR covering all forms of staff misconduct. The number of complaints has increased, indicating a greater awareness of issues of professional integrity. Insiders report an energetic pursuit of cases by the investigations unit, as well as a new and welcome transparency in the approach of some managers.

These encouraging changes should not be reasons for complacency, nor should they be assumed to represent deep institutional change. As one UNHCR official noted, ‘The limited progress achieved in some countries should not conceal the considerable challenges ahead’; significant gaps remain between rhetoric and reality; ‘between awareness at headquarters and in the field; and between the achievements that agencies report, and what has really been achieved for beneficiaries and victims.’

An independent humanitarian watchdog

Existing mechanisms clearly did not ensure accountability to the victims of this scandal. The efforts made at the policy level did not translate into satisfactory outcomes for victims on the ground.

Much focus was placed on discussing important preventive and remedial measures, but not enough was done to challenge attempts to deny the claims of abuse. Statements undermining the victims sent the wrong political message and must inevitably be partly to blame for the poor outcome.

The failure of governments and human rights and humanitarian organisations to check these denials did a disservice to the victims, and in the end undermined these organisations’ own positive work.

Humanitarian actors did not do more because it was not in their interest to do so – other political or institutional interests took precedence over defending the interests of the victims. Some stakeholders in host countries may have lacked the power and capacity to call international bodies to account.

Other stakeholders in donor countries (parliaments, pressure groups, regulatory bodies) may have lacked interest, or lacked the information they needed to act.

A lacuna in humanitarian accountability emerges when one compares similar cases in developed countries.

Victims in such situations have greater recourse in the law. By contrast, the weakened legal systems in war-torn countries mean de facto immunity from criminal and negligence liability, both for individuals and for employers.

The UN and its staff have the added protection of diplomatic immunity. Western aid agencies are obviously less accountable when working in developing countries than would be the case for programmes at home, where the media, parliament, advocacy groups and the law provide greater scrutiny.

Accountability is an issue in all operations. The absence of a global independent structure to take up complaints means that they emerge in an ad hoc, tortuous way, usually resulting in little redress for the victims and harsh retribution for the complainants.

In November 2002, an employment tribunal found that a whistleblower in a trafficking scandal implicating international personnel in Bosnia suffered ‘extraordinarily callous, spiteful and vindictive’ treatment at the hands of her employer, Dyncorp.

In another case, complainants who disseminated information about the infiltration by paedophiles of the Ethiopian programme of Swiss children’s charity Terre des Hommes (TdH) face a defamation suit brought by the charity in the Ethiopian courts.

Since the shortcomings of humanitarian action in Rwanda in the mid-1990s, the humanitarian community has recognised the need for a more systematic approach. Measures such as the Sphere project, People in Aid, ALNAP and HAP address important elements of accountability, namely the provision of technical support, standards, training, and regulation. However, earlier discussions concerning the establishment of a humanitarian ombudsman mechanism have not come to fruition.

There is a need for an independent humanitarian watchdog. Such a body could monitor developments; carry out its own investigations on the ground; lobby governments, parliaments, agencies and the media; and generally be a voice for the beneficiaries of aid, and the taxpayers that fund it.

The absence of a transparent and public account of what actually happened in the West African camps, and the lack of independent verification of changes on the ground, mean that a full and objective overview is not available. Progress towards setting up complaints mechanisms is slow. Inevitably, even when these are established there will be question-marks over the independence of bodies set up by aid agencies themselves.

A humanitarian watchdog would bring the sector into line with other areas of public life which already have government and corporate monitors. The dust may have settled on the West Africa scandal, but it has left a disquieting aftertaste that justice was not done.

Few governments or organisations spoke as stridently as the victims themselves would have done had they been given a platform to do so. The need remains for a truly independent body to hold all humanitarian actors to account.

Asmita Naik is an independent consultant on human rights and humanitarian issues. Reproduction of this text in whole, part or any other form requires the prior consent of the author.

She can be reached at: Asmita was a UNHCR participant in the UNHCR/Save the Children assessment Sexual Violence and Exploitation: The Experience of Refugee Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The full assessment is available on request from Save the Children UK or UNHCR.

An executive summary of initial findings and recommendations made public by UNHCR is available online at:

References and further reading

Asmita Naik, ‘Protecting Children from the Protectors: Lessons from West Africa’, Forced Migration Review, 15, October 2002. Available at

Investigation into Sexual Exploitation of Refugees by Aid Workers in West Africa, UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, UN document number A/57/465, 11 October 2002. Available at

Asmita Naik, ‘UN Investigation into Sexual Exploitation by Aid Workers: Justice Has Not Been Done, Forced Migration Review, January 2003. Available at


Ahhh. Ruud Lubbers, former Dutch Prime Minister does not seem to have very clean hands. Nor does the United Nations in general:


TdH working in the best interest of the child????

UK teacher 'delighted' to be free

But Jill Campbell condemned the charity that pursued defamation charges against her and her husband over her exposure of abuse at its home.

Mrs Campbell, 45, said Swiss charity Terre Des Hommes-Lausanne was wasting donors' money pushing the case through the courts when it should have been apologising to and compensating victims.

Mrs Campbell said she would have been prepared to serve the possible six-month sentence as a way of drawing attention to the case.

She said she and her husband Gary had spoken to her

two adopted 10-year-old children and explained her reasons for not backing down.

She refused to apologise to the charity over claims it had covered up the actions of paedophiles at its home in the village of Jari.

She was convicted of defamation by a court in Addis Ababa but because she refused to say sorry, was due to go to prison until the charity backed down.

She said: "Obviously I'm very happy but it's very difficult because I wanted to draw attention to the case.

"Terre Des Hommes have backed down at the last minute ... I think because Gary has apologised. They are going to use that and say that because of that there is no case to answer.

"As far as I'm concerned the matter isn't over. There are victims who still do not have an apology or compensation, and until they get that nothing has changed."

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