Over 300 Million Children Are Victims of Online Sexual Exploitation

  • ONE IN EIGHT CHILDREN FACE HARM, WORLD’S FIRST GLOBAL ESTIMATE FINDS
  • MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA HAVE MOST ALERTS FOR ABUSE MATERIAL
  • CONCERNS IN EAST & SOUTHERN AFRICA AND WEST & CENTRAL AFRICA
  • ONE CASE AROUND THE WORLD REPORTED EVERY SECOND
  • INTERPOL WARNS OF “CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER TO WORLD’S CHILDREN”
  • AFRICAN SURVIVORS DEMAND ACTION ON “GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY”

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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Two fishermen drown in a lagoon at Vui-Keta


Two fishermen were found dead in the lagoon in Vui, a suburb of Keta in the Keta Municipality, throwing residents into fear and sorrow.

The tragic incident occurred on Saturday, May 25 at about 0200 hours.

Mr Klu Wisdom Agbeko, the Assembly Member for the area, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), stated that the two fishermen went fishing on Friday, May 24, and were expected to return in the early hours of Saturday morning, May 25.

‘We never experienced such incidents here before. Several residents and other fisherfolks are now afraid to go fishing,’ he said.

He gave the names of the deceased as Mr Kodzotsey Korbla Wemegah 54, who lived at Tegbi in the Anloga District, and Mr Dzevenu Korshie Galley, who was in his early 60s, also from Vui, a suburb of Keta.

Mr Agbeko said that the lifeless body of Mr Kodzotsey Wemegah was discovered in the late hours of Saturday evening while the second body was retrieved the following morning.

He expressed worry about what he called ‘experienced fishermen
‘ to have drowned in that manner.

‘We cannot tell what exactly happened to them, their families are now traumatised.’

Mr Agbeko also stated that the incident had since been reported to the Police Command at Keta, who are yet to launch an investigation into the matter.

The body of the deceased has since been conveyed and deposited at the Keta Municipal Hospital Morgue for autopsy.

The GNA also learnt that a fishing net, canoe, flask, and other tools belonging to the deceased were later found on the lagoon.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Ningo-Prampram District Assembly promises to preserve agricultural lands


AL-Latiff Tetteh Amanor, the Ningo-Prampram District Chief Executive (DCE), says the assembly was clearing squatters from agricultural lands as they are hindering agricultural activities in the area.

Mr Amanor said the lands in Dawhenya were fertile and could do all-year farming, hence the need to preserve them for the area to contribute its quota to the agricultural sector of the country.

He said this during the commissioning of 100 hectares of land for a rice seed project, an initiative by the South Korea Agricultural Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana, aimed at producing high-quality rice seeds in the country.

The DCE mentioned that he had been in talks with the Traditional Council on steps to take to preserve the agricultural lands in the district to create farming jobs and support the local economy.

‘I have been telling the traditional rulers that all our lands can’t go in for concrete; I mean estate projects, so our district is wholeheartedly supporting Agric
and agricultural projects,’ he stated.

He pledged that all government projects regarding agriculture would be sustained, stressing that the district had taken it upon itself to chase the encroaches out of the district.

Nene Tetteh Kodie Aden IV, Chief of Dawhenya, said the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme had been of great benefit to the farmers and the various communities in the district at large.

‘For some of us, the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme has been some oxygen to our lives since the very day we visited this earth till now; for that matter, we’ll do everything within our power and our means to ensure that the scheme is sustained,’ he stated.

He stated that the people of Dawhenya were glad to have had their agriculture sector enhanced by the Korean K-Ricebelt outfit and thanked them for the huge investment they were injecting into the Ghanaian economy.

He pleaded with the government to intervene in the threat being posed to the farmlands by the encroaches and appealed to the authorities and the Korean Emba
ssy to extend their support to education, health, and sanitation to spread development in the entire district.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Violent extremism, a challenge to democratic governance – NCCE Director


The Builsa North Municipal Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in the Upper East Region, Mr Jeffrey Adda, says violent extremism and terrorism remain a serious challenge in the preservation of democratic governance.

He said democratic governance was essential for peace, prosperity and safety in the country and the sub-region, noting that ‘Terrorism and other forms of violence including violent extremism have the potential to derail the democratic gains Ghana has made as a country’.

Mr Adda said as the country prepared for a crucial election in less than a year, it was imperative that steps were taken to prevent the use of electioneering activities and platforms to perpetuate violence either by internal or external forces.

He was speaking at the Inter-Party Dialogue Committee (IPDC) meeting on Preventing and Containing Violent Extremism (PCVE) at Sandema in the Builsa North Municipal capital.

The NCCE, with support from the European Union (EU), is organising IPDC meetings on peac
e, tolerance and how to counter violent extremism and vigilantism across the districts dubbed, ‘PCVE Action in the Northern Regions of Ghana.’

Mr Adda said the main objective of the programme was to prevent and contain violent extremism through the promotion of social cohesion, peace and tolerance in the five Northern Regions and other hotspots in Ghana.

‘This IPDC engagement with the political Parties and other stakeholders is aimed at ensuring prevention and containing of violence extremists and the negative consequences of joining violent extremists and terrorist groups,’ he said.

The Director said democracy and good governance in the Western world, which was key to development, were largely credible and attained peacefully, while elections in most developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa had not been the best.

He said Ghana had successfully conducted Presidential and Parliamentary elections with peaceful transition and transfer of political power from a ruling Party to an opposition Part
y in 2000, 2008, 2016 and in 2020.

Mr Adda said Ghana’s electoral successes over the years, called for the avoidance of complacency in the face of threats of violent extremism and terrorism.

‘Even though Ghanaians have continued to uphold the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, free vibrant and a liberalised media landscape and the promotion of democracy in general, the country cannot afford to lose guard at this crucial moment,’ he said.

He cautioned that any setbacks or challenges to democracy in Ghana’s 2024 elections could have a negative rippling effect, potentially emboldening anti-democratic forces in the sub-region and the African continent.

He said it was, therefore, critical for actions to be undertaken to address the rising threat of violent extremism that posed a significant threat to the stability and security of Ghana.

Mr Adda assured participants at the meeting that the NCCE would work closely with all religious bodies and communities to create public awareness of the values of
mutual trust, tolerance, confidence building, negotiation, mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation with emphasis on indigenous mechanisms for peacebuilding.

Mr Pontius Pilate Baba Apaabey, a representative of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church in the Wega Deanary, and resource person at the meeting took stakeholders through monitoring and reporting threats and vulnerabilities to violent extremism.

He sensitised them on ways to detect youth radicalisation, signs of recruitment, mediation and local conflict resolutions.

Mr Apaabey, a former Upper East Regional Director of the NCCE, said if members of the public embraced and collectively pursued, monitored, reported and detected youth radicalisation, it would foster peaceful coexistence, and strengthen their democratic governance and peaceful election process.

Mr Mohammed Sherifdeen Alhassan, the Municipal Director of the Electoral Commission (EC), emphasized the need for the public, especially those who are 18 years old, to take part in
the ongoing Limited Voter Registration exercise and all other activities the Commission would undertake in subsequent months.

He said with the full cooperation of all stakeholders, the EC would be able to compile a credible voter register.

Source: Ghana News Agency

3 dead, over 5,000 displaced in first storm in Philippines this year


Three people were killed and more than 5,000 displaced in the first tropical storm to batter the Philippines this year, police and the national disaster agency said on Monday.

The three fatalities were all from the province of Quezon, about 100 kilometres south-east of Manila, which bore the brunt of tropical storm Ewiniar’s strong winds and heavy rains.

One of the dead was a man who was sleeping inside his hut in the town of San Antonio in Quezon province on Sunday when a tree fell on it, hitting him, police said.

A 14-year-old boy also died after being hit by a falling tree in Lucena City on Sunday, police added.

In the coastal town of Pagbilao, a 7-month-old baby drowned in floods and his body was found off the shore on Sunday, a police report said.

The national disaster agency said 19,373 people were affected by the storm in 13 provinces, including 5,343 who were displaced and forced to stay in more than 80 evacuation centres.

The weather bureau said Ewiniar has strengthened into a typhoon and is no
w packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometres an hour (km/h) and gusts of up to 170 km/h.

It was moving north-eastward at 10km/h and was expected to leave the Philippines by Wednesday.

Ewiniar, locally known as Aghon, was the first cyclone to hit the Philippines this year. The archipelago is hit by an average of 20 tropical cyclones every year.

The strongest typhoon to ever hit the Philippines was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6,300 people and displaced more than 4 million in November 2013.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Flash floods growing threat in urban areas due to population increase


Mr Eric Essuman, the Acting Director-General of Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet), says flash floods are a growing threat in urban areas due to population increase, migration, and climate change.

He said flash floods were sudden local floods of great volume and short duration occurring within six hours or less of heavy or excessive rainfall.

The Acting Director-General said flash floods, rapid and intense floods caused by heavy rainfall, were a recurring threat during Ghana’s rainy season, disrupting vital sectors like energy, disaster management, health, agriculture, and water resources.

‘Predicting rainfall amounts and impacted areas is crucial for safeguarding our nation and fostering economic prosperity, hence the need for developing an Urban Flash Flood Forecasting System (UFFFS),’ he added.

Mr Essuman was speaking at the opening ceremony of a 3-day Regional Technical Capacity Building Workshop on the UFFFS held in Accra.

This workshop is a collaboration between GMet, the World Meteorological Organ
isation (WMO), the Volta Basin Authority (VBA), the Global Water Partnership in West Africa (GWP-WA), and HKV.

GMet, together with its partners, under the ‘Integrating Flood and Drought Management and Early Warning for Climate Change Adaptation in the Volta Basin (VEM) project,’ aim to build capacity for this crucial forecasting system.

Mr Essuman said the Agency collaborated with the Ghana Hydrological Authority (HYDRO), AGRHYMET, WMO, ACMAD, River Basin Organisations, International Climate Centers, and users to develop seasonal forecasts.

‘Accurate and timely seasonal forecasts are critical for planning and mitigating risks associated with fluctuations in monsoon activity,’ he added.

He said the Volta Basin was a vital natural resource for nations and the sub-region, supporting livelihoods across various sectors crucial for socio-economic development.

The Acting Director-General said that, recognising its immense value, it was imperative to collectively invest in its sustainable management and preserva
tion.

He said the recent Akosombo dam spillage served as a stark reminder of the impact of monsoon variability, highlighting the importance of preparedness and effective response to monsoon-related phenomena.

Mr Essuman said effective communication and validating forecasts at all timescales were essential for managing climate hazards, stating that the Agency was introducing the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to enhance the understanding and enable timely responses for a robust early warning system.

‘This year, we are committed to strengthening our alert distribution systems, refining communication strategies, and ensuring warnings reach those most in need, empowering informed decision-making,’ he added.

Mr Ramesh Tripathi, Volta Flood and Drought Project Manager, WMO, said this timely training focused on UFFFS, a system that utilised data from satellites, weather radar, and other sources to forecast flash floods in urban areas.

He said the training also directly contributed to the national Early Warnings
for initiatives aiming to save lives and property.

The Project Manager said it was crucial that floods and droughts were timely monitored, adding that it was also important for national agencies who had the mandate to see what kind of impact it could create,

Source: Ghana News Agency