LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Orphanages around the world often operate as centres for child trafficking and sexual abuse, and donors such as Britain, the United States and the European Union must cut funding to them, said a charity founded by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
London-based charity Lumos said aid donors unwittingly "prop up" abusive orphanages in poor countries by failing to monitor institutions that may traffic children to attract donations.
Lumos Chief Executive Georgette Mulheir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday major donors should lead the way by cutting funding to such institutions.
"It's the responsibility of big donors like the U.S. government, the UK government and the EU who are funding international development to help governments shift the way they are doing this in order to tackle trafficking," said Mulheir, speaking ahead of a consultation with Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) about orphanages.
A report by Lumos in September said orphanages in Haiti were run by "entrepreneurial" traffickers who starved and beat children to attract sympathy and money from well-intentioned donors abroad.
Mulheir said Lumos research showed $100 million in overseas funding had been channeled into Haitian children's shelters, even though four in five children in Haiti's orphanages had at least one living parent.
Many were sold or given to the homes on false promises of an education or care, Lumos said.
At an event at Britain's parliament on Monday, actors from Rowling's Harry Potter series were to screen films they have made in Haitian orphanages.
The charity had found evidence of sexual abuse of children as young as seven in the orphanages, Mulheir added.
The same patterns of child exploitation to attract donations have been found in Zambia, South Africa, Thailand and Cambodia by local organisations working with Lumos, she said.
Mulheir said until governments cut support for orphanages altogether, private donors will continue to follow their lead in funding institutions where children are at risk of abuse.
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ros Russell)