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Representatives of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti have become embroiled in an international diplomatic incident after The Associated Press released information from a report detailing sexual abuse allegations involving U.N. workers and local women seeking their aid.

Here’s a snapshot from the AP’s bombshell of a story, posted early Wednesday:

A year ago, the report says, investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who said they’d had transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers. “For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the `triggering need,'” the report says. Urban and suburban women received “church shoes,’ cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money.

“In cases of non-payment, some women withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media,” the report says. “Only seven interviewees knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse.” None knew about the mission’s hotline to report it.

Each of those instances of transactional sex, the report says, would be considered prohibited conduct, “thus demonstrating significant underreporting.” It was not clear how many peacekeepers were involved.

For all of last year, the total number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against members of all U.N. peacekeeping missions was 51, down from 66 the year before, according to the secretary-general’s latest annual report on the issue.

However, a drop in the number of allegations is not necessarily an indication of improvement, because a variety of factors can contribute to whether people come forward — including whether they feel their claims will be heard or justice will be served.

The full report from the United Nations is slated to be released before the end of June.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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