United Nations peacekeepers fathered hundreds of children during a controversial mission in Haiti, a report has found.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and Ontario University spoke to 2,500 people in Haiti, asking them about their experience of the UN’s Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Minustah) which became one of the longest running peacekeeping mission.
More than 10%, 265 people, described stories which featured children fathered by peacekeeping agents.
Researchers said a common theme in the stories was transactional sex, with peacekeepers paying young women and leaving after a baby was fathered.
Peacekeepers were frequently repatriated after a pregnancy was made known.
In one instance, a 14-year-old girl became pregnant after getting involved with a Brazilian soldier who was working as a peacekeeper. He told her he would help with the child, but left the country.
She has not received any support from him, the UN, or the Haitian state, and cannot afford to send her son, now four years old, to school, after being kicked out of her family home.
The report, published in The Conversation, found that a handful of the cases involving pregnancy came from rape.
The stories which emerged ranged from instances of sexual violence to accounts of relationships with soldiers, even those who cited rumours that some women wanted to date fairer skinned UN peacekeepers because fairer skinned children were seen as desirable.
Minustah ran from 2004 until 2017, and became the longest running mission in Haiti by the UN. It was originally implemented to deal with political instability and organised crime but its mandate spread after the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 hurricane.
Children fathered from peacekeeping soldiers even ended up with the nickname “Petit Minustah”.
One married man from Cite Soleil told researchers: “They come, they sleep with the women, they take their pleasures with them, they leave children in their hands, give them 500 gourdes [about £3.95].”
Another man from Port Salut said: “I had a sister who was dating a Minustah soldier. My whole family knew about it, my mother as well as other people. She became pregnant.
“Ever since, my sister’s life is a mess.”
Another said: “All day, I heard women who are complaining about the sexual violence that Minustah did to them. And they had given them AIDS through sexual violence. There are also some of them who are pregnant.”
The report stated: “In many cases, the power differential between foreign peacekeepers and local populations allows foreigners, knowingly or unknowingly, to exploit local women and girls.
“The prevalence of transactional sex in our data underscores the significance of the structural imbalances – peacekeepers have access to some of the resources that are desired or needed by the local population and so they are in a strong position to exchange those for sex.”
It comes just two years after The Times exposed how Oxfam covered up sexual exploitation by its workers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
A spokesman for UN Peacekeeping told The Times missions around the world “are making steady progress and have put in place many steps to end and prevent these abuses” but that “much remains to be done”.
The statement added: “All categories of personnel are vetted against a prior history of misconduct while serving in the United Nations. Perpetrators are barred from future recruitment with us.
“We have removed or repatriated both individuals and units where we deemed it appropriate and will continue to do so.”
To conduct the research, participants were asked a series of pre-defined questions but could tell any story they wished. The Haitian assistants worked in 10 communities around UN bases in the country and asked people about what it was like to be a woman or girl in the area during a peacekeeping mission.
The trained assistants did not ask specifically about sexual relations with peacekeepers or any children which may have resulted.
In its recommendations, the report said the UN must train its personnel to understand the power differentials in fragile peacekeeping economies.
It also said the practice of repatriating peacekeepers after pregnancy should end, to stop women being left with nowhere to secure financial help.
Sky News has contacted the UN for comment.