GOMA, Congo – Although U.N. peacekeepers were dispatched to the Congo to keep order and improve the lives of Congolese, some leave behind disease and heartbreak.
Juliette, a Congolese woman who had a relationship with a peacekeeper (search), is the mother of one of an estimated hundreds of mixed-race children abandoned by U.N. workers at the end of their 6-month tours of duty, despite an official policy of no contact between U.N. peacekeepers and local women.
"There is no help from the U.N.," Juliette said. "They just make women pregnant and leave. They never take care of their kids."
The single mothers, however, are more fortunate than 17-year-old Bijou, who said she contracted the AIDS virus from a peacekeeper — and has since passed it on to her husband and child.
The tragic irony of the situation isn't lost on Bijou's husband, Rasta Usher, who is 25 years old and also HIV positive.
"I know the United Nations is here to support us, but it's unbelievable for me to see a thing like this," Usher said. "The one that came to support us is the one that took our ladies, who come to take everything."
Their neighbor Noella also says she got AIDS (search) from a U.N. peacekeeper. Despite carrying the virus, she continues to engage in unprotected sex with U.N. personnel.
"From the time I found out I got AIDS from that man, I have no feelings for U.N. guys anymore but I still need the money," Noella said.
The situation will be difficult to remedy as long as the health of U.N. workers isn't monitored. Current U.N. policy does not require peacekeepers to be tested for HIV before, during or after their deployments, despite the efforts of U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, who have urged mandatory testing.
A U.N. report released in Janaury found that peacekeepers in Congo sexually abused and exploited women and girls, some as young as 13.
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