UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast enticed minor girls to trade sex for food, according to a US embassy cable released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
The diplomatic cable, written in January 2010, focuses on the behavior of Beninese peacekeepers stationed in the war-torn western town of Toulepleu, a media report said on Friday.
A random poll of 10 underage girls by aid group 'Save The Children UK' in 2009 found that eight performed sexual acts on a regular basis in exchange for their most basic needs, the 'Daily Mail' said.
Parents were encouraging their daughters to sleep with the peacekeepers so they would provide for them, according to the cable.
"Eight of the 10 said they had ongoing sexual relationships with Beninese soldiers in exchange for food or lodging," it said.
Earlier this week, UN spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said that 16 Beninese peacekeepers had now been barred from serving with them following a year-long probe, the daily said.
Of the 16 soldiers involved, 10 were commanders. They "failed to maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse," he said.
Sexual misconduct by UN troops has been reported in a number of countries including Congo, Cambodia and Haiti – as well as in an earlier incident involving Moroccan peacekeepers in Ivory Coast.
Bonnardeaux said that 42 allegations of sexual abuse by UN staff in Ivory Coast have been reported since 2007. Sixteen involved minors.
None have been reported yet this year, according to UN records.