Anecdotal evidence suggests that child abuse in aid and development programs is a global problem but there is very little data to substantiate this. Few UN agencies and NGOs collect detailed information on the abuse of children by their own staff, and even fewer make this information publicly available. 


In 2002, a joint report by the UNHCR and Save the Children claimed child abuse was endemic in refugee camps, highlighting allegations against 67 workers and 42 agencies involving 40 victims. 1

In 2004 it was reported that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) many girls and women traded sex for food and other items with peacekeepers as a survival tactic. 2

Save the Children reported from research in 2008 in Cote D’Ivorie, Sudan and Haiti that nearly 90% of those interviewed recalled incidents of children being sexually exploited by aid workers and peacekeepers. 3


1. Sexual violence & Exploitation: The Experience of refugee Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  UNHCR and Save the Children UK - 2002

2.  K Holt and S Hughes, ‘Sex and Death in the Heart of Africa.’ Independent, 25 May 2004.

3. Save the Children UK (2008) No One to Turn To: The under-reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse from aid workers and peacekeeper. Save the Children: UK London


Further statistics taken from Unicef

Violence against children

It is impossible to measure the true magnitude of violence against children worldwide. There is a lack of data on the exact number of child victims because so much happens in secret and is not reported. However, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are estimated to experience violence annually.  In each year as many as 275 million children worldwide are estimated to witness domestic violence.  

While the family should be the natural environment for protection of children, the home can also be a place where children experience violence in the form of discipline. Data from 37 countries shows that 86 per cent of children 2–14 years old experience physical punishment and/or psychological aggression. Two out of three children are subject to physical punishment.

Certain groups of children are particularly vulnerable to violence, including children with disabilities, children belonging to minority groups, children living on the streets, adolescents in conflict with the law, and refugee, displaced and migrating children. Generally, boys tend to be at greater risk of physical violence and girls face greater risk of neglect and sexual violence and exploitation.


Child Labour

It has been estimated that 158 million children, aged 5-14, are engaged in labour, as of 2006.

More than one third of children in sub-Saharan Africa work.


Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

UNICEF estimates that 70 million girls and women aged 15–49 in 28 countries in Africa, plus Yemen have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).The prevalence of FGM/C has declined slowly but steadily during the past decades.  


Child Trafficking

Estimation of the number of child trafficking continues to be a challenge given the clandestine nature of the crime. Variation in the numbers prevail depending on methodology used. ILO in 2005, for example, estimated that 980,000 to 1,250,000 children - both boys and girls - are placed in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking ( 


Children without Parental Care

It has been estimated that more than 2 million children are in institutional care around the world, with more than 800,000 of them in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). This global estimate is likely to be severely underestimated due to under-reporting and lack of reliable data. Many institutions are unregistered and many countries do not regularly collect and report data on children in institutional care.

More than 17.5 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, over 14 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.


Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children

There are few accurate statistics regarding sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children as these crimes are often covert, secret and associated with intense feelings of shame that prevent children and adults from seeking help and reporting them.

Although statistics in relation to sexual abuse and exploitation are broad estimations and should be treated with caution, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 are estimated to have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence and exploitation involving physical contact.  In 2000, it was estimated that 1.8 million children were being sexually exploited in prostitution and pornography.  Around 1 million children are thought to enter prostitution every year.

Although the majority of the child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse are girls, both girls and boys, of all ages and backgrounds, everywhere in world, fall victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


Children with Disabilities

It is estimated that, overall, some 650 million people worldwide live with a disability.

Reliable statistics on children with disabilities are difficult to obtain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 10 per cent of the world’s children and young people, some 200 million, have sensory, intellectual or mental health impairment. Around 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.

Mortality for children with disabilities under five can be as high as 80 per cent in some income poor countries.

Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to physical violence and sexual, emotional and verbal abuse, and in some instances, the disability is itself caused by maltreatment.