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Humanitarian aid workers who fathered children abroad tracked down using DNA

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By Jim OHagan
File picture: Oxfam sexual abuse scandal Haiti 2010
File picture: Oxfam sexual abuse scandal Haiti 2010   -   Copyright  AFP

Researchers at King's College London are tracking down men who fathered children while carrying out humanitarian work abroad.

Test cases in the Philippines found men from Australia, Canada, the US and Britain had fathered children in the country while doing foreign aid work.

The research - which uses genealogy technology - comes a decade after the Oxfam scandal that rocked the aid sector with allegations that staff had engaged in sexual misconduct with victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

The project is led by former aid worker, lawyer and visiting professor at King's College London, Andrew MacLeod.

He says that although data on the prevalence of sexual abuse in the humanitarian sector is hard to come by, the entire industry has been complacent about the problem.

"I wish I could say just how widespread it is, but the International Development Committee of the House of Commons said that there's so little data, we just don't know how big a problem it is, except, they say - the whole industry has been complacent to the level of complicit," MacLeod explained.

"And we know from the food for sex scandals in West Africa, the whistleblower scandals in Bosnia, that senior people in the industry have known this problem for over 30 years. And indeed, the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom says as we crack down on predatory paedophiles in the developing world, predators now go to the developing world and their chosen methodology to get access to children is to join a children's charity."

MacLeod believes organisations are turning a blind eye. 

"They've been knowing for 30 years that this is a problem and they've been saying for 30 years: 'we have zero tolerance', yet not a single prosecution of an aid worker who has abused a child under the age of 16. 

"You've got to ask, are they taking it seriously to say zero tolerance when there's zero action?" he added.

Watch Good Morning Europe's interview with Professor Andrew MacLeod in the media player above.

Journalist • Jim OHagan