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Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Roma children. Wikicommons

Macedonia's child abuse scandal reveals flaws in aid work

Lidija Pisker recommended by Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Southern Europe

The head of a center for troubled minors resigned due to sexual abuse allegations of underage Roma girls. The scandal has uncovered serious problems with Macedonia's child protection system.

Southern Europe Smoke signals

Why this story matters:

Once again, an institution designed to protect and help children has instead become a place where human rights are violated and the innocent become victims.

We saw it in Haiti, where officials with Oxfam -- a well-respected, generously funded, human rights organization -- knew their aid workers were abusing children and didn't take swift action to stop it. 

We saw it with Save the Children, whose main executive got involved in a sex harassment scandal, quit his position of power -- which he was using to intimidate female co-workers -- only to jump into the even more powerful role of UNICEF Deputy.

In all three cases, the so-called "aid work" betrayed its core purpose of protecting the vulnerable. And in all three cases, the sense of accountability came too little, too late.

And what is the use of apologies if they don't lead to substantial adjustments in the way aid agencies employ and manage their representatives? It will be up to us to keep aid organizations accountable for deep change. Otherwise they will simply become more skilled at covering up scandals.


Details from the story:

  • A 13-year-old Roma girl had an abortion following years of sexual abuse, according to the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC). 
  • The girl told ERRC she was forcibly taken by a man from the institution to his home where he coerced her into sexual acts. 
  • The girl's parents told the ERRC in March 2017 that their daughter was missing, but authorities did not report it to the police or parents.
  • ERRC received a similar testimony from two sisters, who said they were sexually abused by an old man who identified himself as an employee of the Center for Social Work. 
  • The Ministry of Social Policy called for a criminal investigation and smaller shelters that have individualized support programs.

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