Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story

Unveiling the Shadows: Child Sexual Exploitation in Humanitarian Contexts

Child sexual exploitation is a grave violation that intensifies during humanitarian crises.

ECPAT International, in collaboration with ECPAT members in Ethiopia (Emmanuel Development Association), Kenya (Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children’s Rights – KAACR) and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights) has undertaken crucial research to dissect the complexities of sexual exploitation affecting children in these tumultuous contexts. Our findings provide essential insights into the challenges and call for immediate action. 

Download the Global Research (English) and Executive Summaries (English, French, and Spanish) below:

Global Research


Executive Summary


Overview of Findings:

  • Prevalence and Complexity: The breakdown of traditional protective mechanisms during crises exposes children to heightened risks of sexual exploitation. Children are coerced into devastating situations, including prostitution within refugee camps and transactional sex for basic survival, highlighting the dire conditions exacerbated by conflicts and displacement. 
  • Sectoral Challenges: The humanitarian response is often segmented and uncoordinated, which significantly hampers the effectiveness of interventions to protect children who are put into vulnerable situations. 
  • Cultural and Social Dynamics: Persistent stigmatisation and deeply rooted cultural beliefs frequently shift blame to child victims, undermining efforts to address systemic issues and hold perpetrators accountable. 

Urgent Calls to Action:

  • Enhance Collaboration: We urge international bodies, non-government organisations, and local communities to forge stronger alliances and implement integrated strategies that place the protection of children from all forms of harm, including sexual exploitation, at the forefront of humanitarian efforts. 
  • Advocate and Educate: There is a pressing need for global advocacy to challenge harmful norms and improve community understanding of the impacts of child sexual exploitation.
  • Fund adequately: We urge donors to consider their funding structure and modalities and how these impact on ability to provide integrated, sustainable and transformative responses while covering essential basic needs 

Further Engagement:

  • Policy Influence: We call on policymakers to consider our findings and integrate nuanced protections for children into international human rights legislation. 
  • Children and Community Involvement: Local communities and in particular children, youth and young survivors must be involved in crafting culturally sensitive and sustainable solutions, ensuring that interventions are effectively tailored to the children’s needs. 
  • Download the full report here for an in-depth exploration of our comprehensive findings and strategic recommendations. Join us in this critical conversation and participate in the solution—sign up for updates and get involved. 

Explore more resources on the sexual exploitation of children in humanitarian contexts:

Case Study: Ethiopia


Case Study: Kenya


Case Study: Kurdistan Region of Iraq


Sexual exploitation of children generated by the Venezuelan migration crisis (Spanish)