March 21, 2018 / 5:19 PM / a year ago

Five South Africa peacekeepers face sexual exploitation paternity tests

GOMA, Congo (Reuters) - Five South African peacekeepers are facing paternity tests for the children of four women and a girl who say they were sexually exploited by them in eastern Congo between 2014 and 2016, the United Nations said.

Four of the incidents concerned sexually exploitative relations with adults and the fifth concerned the sexual abuse of a minor, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric was cited as saying late on Tuesday in a transcript sent to Reuters on Wednesday.

Sexually exploitative relations usually refers to paying for sex with women from vulnerable communities.

A flurry of sexual misconduct or abuse claims against aid workers and peacekeepers has become a huge embarrassment for the humanitarian sector in the past six months.

Forty allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were made during the past three months of 2017 against U.N. peacekeeping missions, agencies, funds and programmes and implementing partners, it said last month.

The new incidents highlighted took place in North and South Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a U.N. peacekeeping presence has kept a variety of predatory militia groups at bay.

“The mission will continue to monitor their well‑being and needs, as well as provide any additional assistance, such as the collection of DNA samples for paternity testing,” Dujarric said of the victims.

The United Nations has tried to improve transparency in how it deals with such accusations over the past few years, after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse charges were made against U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Africa.

Charities have also come under the spotlight and several have pledged to overhaul their approach to dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.

But the South African peacekeeping contingent in Congo has repeatedly faced such allegations.

“Allegations against this contingent continue to occur, despite our sustained efforts ... to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as other forms of misconduct,” Dujarric said.

Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams

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