The U.N. secretary-general is ordering an external, independent investigation into the way the world body has handled children's claims of sexual abuse by French soldiers in Central African Republic.

A U.N. statement Wednesday says the review will address both the specific allegations and wider issues related to how the U.N. responds to such sensitive claims.

A year after the U.N. first heard accounts by children as young as 9 of French soldiers giving them food or water in exchange for sodomy or oral sex, no arrests have been made.

Confidential statements by the U.N.'s top human rights officials show that they were distracted for more than half a year by budget cuts and other issues and didn't follow up on the allegations with the French.