Over 300 Million Children Are Victims of Online Sexual Exploitation


LONDON, May 27, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Over 300 million children are subjected to online sexual exploitation and abuse globally, with several parts of Africa identified as areas of concern. These are among the conclusions by university researchers behind the first global estimate of the scale of the crisis.

With files containing sexual images of children are reported worldwide once every second, the authors stated that pupils “in every classroom, in every school, in every country” are victims of this “hidden pandemic”.

The statistics appear in a ground breaking report the Childlight Global Child Safety Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. It indicates that one in eight, or 12.6%, of the world’s children have endured past year experience of non-consensual taking, sharing, and exposure to sexual images and video, amounting to about 302 million young people.

Additionally, 12.5% of children globally (300 million) were subject in the past year to online solicitation, including unwanted sexual talk, non-consensual sexting, and unwanted sexual questions or act requests by adults or other youths. Offences can also include “sextortion” and abuse of AI deepfake technology.

One child grooming survivor campaigning for change emphasised the need for stronger regulation to hold tech platforms accountable, especially with the increasing difficulty of detecting offenders due to the roll-out of end-to-end encryption on popular social media apps.

Childlight’s new global index, Into the Light, found the Middle East and North Africa receive the highest Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) hosting alerts per population size – nine per 1,000 people, more than any other region. The prevalence of online solicitation is highly reported by children in East and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa, at 20.4% and 18% respectively, compared to the 12.5% global average.

While these African regions receive fewer CSAM hosting reports, their lower internet availability suggests they may become future hotspots as more countries come online.

Childlight CEO Paul Stanfield, a former Interpol Director, stressed the urgency of treating the issue as a global health emergency. “Child abuse material is so prevalent that files are on average reported to watchdog and policing organisations once every second. This is a global health pandemic that has remained hidden for far too long. It occurs in every country, is growing exponentially and requires an urgent global response. Children can’t wait.”

Debi Fry, professor of international child protection research at the University of Edinburgh, who led the Childlight project, stated: “The world needs to know these atrocities are affecting children in every classroom, in every school, in every country. These aren’t harmless images: they are deeply damaging.”

Interpol’s executive director, Stephen Kavanagh, said: “Online exploitation and abuse is a clear and present danger to the world’s children, and traditional law enforcement approaches are struggling to keep up. We must do much more together at a global level.”

Newton Kariuki*, a 22-year-old Kenyan man who was sexually abused as a child, adds: “It pains me so much that children still face abuse. For me it affected me so much. Sharing with anyone, even with my parents at first was hard, but I had to get justice. Guidance and counselling are important. It is what has helped me to overcome the stigma and negative feelings I had in me.”

Timothy Opobo, Executive Director of The AfriChild Centre in Uganda, emphasised the need for more data and investment in research to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation effectively. “Building the evidence base through rigorous research is crucial to ending harmful social norms and beliefs that don’t work in the best interests of the African child,” he said.

Among the key findings based on original research and analysis of 125 studies and over 36 million reports are:

  • The Middle East and North Africa receive the most alerts about CSAM per head of population.
  • Eastern and Southern Africa report the highest prevalence of online sexual extortion.

If you or someone you know needs support for child sexual exploitation and abuse, or if you are concerned that you might hurt a child, please visit Child Helpline International or brave movement or Stop it now

Notes to editors

A copy of the full report, video clips, photos and an infographic (all free to use) are available at this Dropbox link https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/0pty9kmxhe1w59d40kfvr/ANTWduJsRUje1lHKKu39_2c?rlkey=yo453zr3klnrangcspf6jc7ye&st=7tguck3i&dl=0
*Survivor name changed to protect identity

Childlight is funded by the Human Dignity Foundation

For information and interview opportunities please contact Jason Allardyce at Jason.allardyce@ed.ac.uk.

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National Dialogue Commission to Begin Sessions Next Week

Addis Ababa—The regional states and city administrations will commence their chapters of the national dialogue sessions starting May 29, 2024, the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission announced.

According to Ethiopian News Agency, it was established to effectively resolve basic differences on national issues among those with various political and ideological positions through inclusive national dialogue.

Since its establishment, the Commission has completed the identification of participants in ten regional states and two city administrations in a free and impartial manner. Commissioner Ambye Ogato stated that dialogue sessions will begin in regional states and city administrations on May 29, 2024.

“All necessary preparations have been made to start the process, and all stakeholders are expected to contribute their parts,” Ogato said. He noted that three main tasks will be accomplished in this phase of the dialogue, where stakeholders from various regions and elected representatives from different woreda will discuss agenda items.

“This will prove that Ethiopia has the capacity to resolve her challenges through constructive and inclusive dialogues,” Ogato elaborated. Participants will jointly select agenda items for discussion and facilitate an atmosphere to resolve simpler issues within their capacity. Representatives from localities will be elected to join other participants from regions and stakeholders for a national dialogue.

Ethiopia’s National Dialogue Commission aims to rectify and resolve long-standing problems, contributing to the peaceful and livable future of the country for the next generation of Ethiopians.

Summer Voluntary Service to Benefit Over 1.2 Million Residents of Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa—The Mayor of Addis Ababa, Adanech Abiebie, announced the launch of the city’s annual summer voluntary service, which is expected to positively impact the lives of over 1.2 million citizens in the capital. At the launch event held in Lideta District, Mayor Adanech emphasized that this voluntary service initiative is a crucial component of Addis Ababa’s modernization efforts, aimed at enhancing the well-being of the residents.

According to Ethiopian News Agency, the previous summer and winter voluntary service programs resulted in the construction and handover of 6,730 houses to less privileged local residents in the city. This year’s house construction and renovation program aims to benefit 17,500 citizens by building 3,500 homes for underprivileged members of the community.

The mayor highlighted that this year’s summer voluntary service will engage over 2.2 million volunteers in various programs. She expressed confidence that this widespread participation will ensure the success of the endeavor, ultimately benefiting more than 1.2 million Addis Ababa residents.

Additionally, Mayor Adanech announced the commencement of three new 9-story buildings in Lideta sub-city, a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders. Three beneficiaries of the previous summer’s house construction and renovation program, Zufan Sitotaw, Abeba Kassahun, and Aregash Tulu, expressed their gratitude for the positive impact of the initiatives on their lives.

It is estimated that the summer voluntary service program in Addis Ababa will transact over 5 billion birr, underscoring the city’s commitment to improving the living conditions and opportunities for its residents through this extensive community-driven initiative.

PM Abiy Announces Full Swing Preparations for Green Legacy Planting

Addis Ababa—As the Green Legacy planting season approaches, preparations are in full swing, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced.

According to Ethiopian News Agency, planting sites are being prepared and seedlings are continuously cultivated.

“Our annual program, aimed at promoting environmental sustainability, combating climate change, reversing deforestation, and reducing land degradation, involves communities, schools, and organizations working together to plant billions of trees,” Abiy wrote on social media.

The Green Legacy Initiative, a flagship program initiated by Prime Minister Abiy in June 2019, has so far seen the planting of 32.5 billion tree saplings nationwide. The initiative aims to plant 50 billion tree seedlings by 2026.

East African Nations Urged to Enhance Multilateral Cooperation for Regional Peace and Stability

Addis Ababa—East African countries should strengthen multilateral cooperation and work together to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region, researchers at the Institute of Foreign Affairs emphasized.

According to Ethiopian News Agency, power competition in East Africa poses a significant challenge to achieving peace and stability. East Africa is a strategically important area where Europe, the Middle East, and Africa converge, making it a hub for political, economic, and social integration.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the crisis in the region has direct implications for Ethiopia’s national interests, particularly regarding geography and people-to-people ties between Ethiopia and the Middle East. The ministry expressed Ethiopia’s readiness to collaborate with partner countries and international institutions to address the region’s problems sustainably.

Dr. Mohamed Seid, a senior researcher at the Africa and Middle East Directorate of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, highlighted that the problems in the Middle East significantly impact the peace and stability of East Africa. He stressed that the power competition in East Africa challenges preventing peace and stability, and countries should work together to strengthen multilateral cooperation for regional peace and stability. “The instability in the region has a significant impact on overall security,” he said.

The researchers also noted that the disruption in trade activity of the Red Sea caused by the tension in the Middle East has affected the economy of Africa and the region. Miftah Mohammed, a researcher at the Africa and Middle East Directorate, emphasized the historical ties and geographic proximity between the Middle East and East Africa, noting their deep-rooted social cohesion.

Mohammed Seid emphasized the need for regional unity and multilateral consultation platforms. “The countries in the region must strengthen the multilateral consultation platform. They must uphold their unity,” he said, citing the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as an example of regional cooperation.

The researchers urged Ethiopia to expand its port options to mitigate the pressure caused by the disruption of the Red Sea trade route due to the Middle East issue. Miftah Mohammed stated that Africa must uphold its own path to achieve peace and that Ethiopia should not solely depend on a single port but should expand its port infrastructure.

Therefore, the researchers suggested that East African countries should use multilateral diplomacy to address the problems in the Middle East. They recommended that IGAD cooperate with other regional institutions and actively participate in diplomatic consultations to resolve the issues through dialogue, emphasizing the need to reactivate the IGAD Red Sea Task Force to protect the region’s interests.