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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State Vows To Complete Stalled Infrastructure Projects

The national government is committed to completing all stalled infrastructure projects in the Nyanza region before initiating new ones, aiming to spur economic growth.

Topping the list is the tarmacking of the 63km Mamboleo-Miwani-Chemelil-Muhoroni-Kipsitet road, which commenced in 2022 but faced funding challenges.

Information, Communications and The Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary (CS) Eliud Owalo affirmed that the state has made provisions to support the actualisation of key development projects in the area. Notably, the construction of the Mfangano Island Ring Road in Homa Bay is now complete, having been launched by the head of state eight months ago.

Owalo made these remarks during a relief food distribution exercise to households affected by floods at Masara Secondary, Muhoroni Sub-County. He also highlighted the advanced planning stage for the construction of the 478-kilometer Lake Victoria ring road, which will traverse Busia to Migori Counties along the shoreline.

‘The Ministry of Roads and Tr
ansport has already approved the road project design, and the Treasury is negotiating with the World Bank to release funds for the project,’ Owalo stated. Thus, the ring road, he emphasised, which connects Kenya with Tanzania and Uganda, would transform the region’s economy by boosting tourism and regional trade.

Additionally, Owalo noted that the state is keen on investing cash by leasing five struggling state-owned sugar companies despite the process being derailed by the high court process.

The government has begun paying arrears to all cane farmers and workers at South Nyanza Sugar Company, Nzoia Sugar Company, Miwani Sugar, Muhoroni Sugar, and Chemelil Sugar Company ahead of their leasing.

‘We are bringing in private investors to rejuvenate these factories through leasing, enabling them to operate at optimum levels. This will revitalise the sugar belt economy,’ Owalo said.

At the same time, Owalo announced that his ministry, in collaboration with the National Government Constituencies Development Fun
d (NG-CDF), will roll out the construction of ICT digital hubs in all wards countrywide.

‘We are working to ensure all wards in Kenya have computer hubs where Form 4 leavers and graduates can receive digital training and connect with online work from foreign organisations. This is key to addressing unemployment among graduate youths,’ he added.

Source: Kenya News Agency

Bee Keepers In Homa Bay Seek Government Support

Beekeepers in Homa Bay County are calling on the national and county governments to support their venture as a key driver of the economy in the region.

The farmers led by the coordinator of the Homa Bay Beekeepers Association Samuel Oyugi lamented that despite its potential, beekeeping remains largely unsupported.

‘We started beekeeping because we saw it as a good source of income. However, beekeeping has not been recognized for its potential and benefit to the community,’ Oyugi regretted.

The association has over 200 members spread across Oyugis, Homa Bay Town, Ndhiwa, and Rusinga islands. ‘We are urging the government to commit more resources to beekeeping industry which is a cornerstone of economic stimulus programs,’ Oyugi said.

He said one hive can produce up to 7 kilograms of honey, and the market is readily available. He added they cannot meet the demand.

The association highlighted several challenges hindering their growth such as lack of particularly bee suits.

Additionally, he said many beekee
pers lacked proper training and essential tools like smokers and centrifuge systems for honey extraction.

‘We want to see a united front among beekeepers. This way, when companies come for honey, they’ll find a large, reliable source,’ Oyugi added.

The association is seeking government support for training programs and equipment provision.

The bee keepers are also advocating for the formation of beekeeping cooperatives to increase production capacity. ‘We have some Non-Governmental Organisations who support us, we urge the Lake Basin Development Authority to also support us with training and materials,’ he added.

Source: Kenya News Agency

Teso North Unveils Plan To Boost Education Infrastructure And Hybrid Learning

Education in Teso North constituency received a major boost after area MP Oku Kaunya unveiled a five-year strategic plan which is aimed at turning around the education sector to accommodate hybrid alongside skill-based learning.

Speaking at Amagoro Girls secondary, Kaunya said that his focus is to re-strategise and prioritise education fields in the constituency and ensure that next year, all youths irrespective of their education status get adequate skills relevant for the job market here in Kenya and overseas.

The legislature added that having a mass population of youths around who have no basic skills is hazardous and risky to the security of the constituency.

‘By next year no child will bear school dropout title in the society as we shall build more technical and tertiary institutions which will equip our youths with skills suitable for the market,’ said Kaunya.

‘As a constituency we remain committed to ensuring we address the state of infrastructure in our schools to be able to support both hybrid le
arning and basic skilled education,’ he added.

Kaunya said the launch of the strategic plan was vital for them, revealing that those behind the document had factored all their views, adding that the plan would benefit residents of the Constituency.

‘My dream is to have Teso North become a model Constituency and to put it on the map of Kenya academically to be in tandem with other areas in the country,’ the MP said.

County Executive Committee Member for ICT, Strategic Planning and Digital Economy Douglas Okiring said he has already sourced for five investors who are willing to come and invest in the county, adding that the only challenge now is to look for pieces of land.

Okiring said that it’s unfortunate that the previous regime had been operating without a spatial plan, noting that the scenario has since changed.

The CECM revealed that the over 800 acres of Nasewa land had been subdivided into two with part one being County Aggregated Industrial Park to encourage commercial farming and the second being
Export Processing Zone to attract investors to construct factories for export purposes.

KUPPET Executive Secretary Morfat Okisai, challenged the government to relook into the terms of service for JSS teachers and employ adequate and up to task teachers to serve the junior secondary schools so as not to disadvantage the learners.

Okisai noted that its regrettable to learn that JSS teacher covers 14 subjects alone per class in most schools within the sub-county.

‘Destroying a Nation only needs one to annihilate education and the state is worrying therefore the government should employ quality and adequate personnel in the field and also consider their remuneration,’ says Okisai Morfat.

Source: Kenya News Agency

Youth Urged To Apply For Youth Enterprise And Development Fund

Youth in Busia County have been urged to apply for Youth Enterprise and Development Fund (YEDF), and use the funds to develop themselves, create more employment opportunities and improve their lives.

Speaking to Kenya News Agency, at their offices, Mr. Edgar Akide, area Assistant County Credit officer, urged youths at individual level or group to visit the office and apply for funds.

‘I am urging the youths to visit our office to know how to apply and get these funds because this is their money,’ Akinde said stating that this is the government intervention to ensure the youth develop themselves through engagements in business, farming and other income generating projects.

Akide also asked those who benefit with loans to ensure they pay the money on time to enable others to benefit.

‘Making your payment on time gives you an advantage of increment in your loan limit. It will also help others to benefit from the money you have paid,’ he said.

He added that the loan payment process has been positive whereby
70% of the loans taken have been paid well.

Another Assistant County Credit officer Mr. Silas Baraza said that most youth in the county have benefited from the program giving an example of Auki youth group in Samia Sub County which deal in textiles.

‘This group deals in making school uniforms. We have given them funds and helped them to market their products. They have supplied uniforms to many schools including Butula boys and Sigalame high school,’ he said.

Barasa said that Sh15 million has been issued so far in Busia County since the beginning of this financial year.

He also stated that most of the beneficiaries are from Matayos, followed by Samia and Nambale sub counties.

Mercy Wambui, an officer at YEDF said that the fund is for individuals aged between 18-34 years. ‘For the group to qualify for this loan, 70% of the members has to be youth,’ Wambui explained adding that other requirements include being a Kenyan citizen, and having a business permit if the loan is meant for business.She at the same
time said that they offer training before issuing out the loans to the youths.

Youth Enterprise and Development Fund aims at mainly creating self-employment for the youth across the country.

Source: Kenya News Agency

Over 5,000 Machakos Residents Benefit From Free Medical Camp

Mpesa Foundation in partnership with Zuri Health and the Machakos County Government held a free medical camp at Vota, Machakos that benefited close to 5,000 residents.

The medical camp organised over the weekend at Vota Secondary School offered a range of medical services including child health and malnutrition screening, reproductive and sexual health, eye care, dental care, breast cancer screening, blood pressure and blood sugar screening, fistula screening and general doctor consultations.

Henry Kilonzo, Senior Manager, Foundation Programmes said Mpesa Foundation was keen on bringing health closer to the people through the medical camps.

‘This is part of the medical camps conducted every month since 2013.So far we have managed to reach over 40,000 people,’ said Kilonzo.

He said the foundation has invested Sh80 million for the programme to be rolled out across the counties.

The senior manager said the medical camps through Zuri Health integrate technology and artificial intelligence in the delivery of
health care services enhancing efficiency.

Machakos Executive Committee Member (ECM) for Health Daniel Yumbya speaking at the same venue said the county government had set aside a ward at the Machakos Level Five Hospital for specialised medical care for those patients referred from the camp.

Yumbya also disclosed that besides the medical camp, Zuri Health has offered a free NHIF cover for 20 elderly persons in Machakos for over a period of one year.

‘We want to thank Zuri Health for the commitment of the medical cover. Once the cover expires the county government will extend it for another year,”he said.

Franscisca Mbinya, a resident, hailed the medical camp as an opportunity for her to seek medical attention on her diabetic condition.

Mbinya said the camp was a relief to her as she was not able to afford regular check-ups due to lack of finances.

‘This free medical camp has come to my rescue because for some time now I have not been able to access medical checkups and medications because of the expens
es,’ she said.

Source: Kenya News Agency