UNODC partners with MTN, META and IWF on a vital child sexual abuse awareness campaign and launches Africa Portal to help prevent the spread of child sexual abuse material online

Figure 1: With the launch of the Help Children be Children campaign and the Child Safety Online Africa Portal, anyone anywhere in Africa can report child sexual abuse materials

Millions of images and videos depicting children in sexual situations are reported to be uploaded from the African continent every year. In fact, between 2019 and 2020, over 2.4 million of such reports were received according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ((NCMEC) and the figures keep increasing.

In hopes to raise public awareness on the prevalence of child sexual abuse and help counter the distribution of such material online on the African continent, The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) joined forces with MTN Group, Meta, ICMEC (the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children) and Child Helpline International, with the support of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), on April 7, 2022 to launch the Help Children be Children campaign and the Child Safety Online Africa Portal.

The new campaign aims to raise awareness on the gradual increase of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and how it can be reported by the public in target countries in Africa. Additionally, the campaign will help train law enforcement and child helplines in target countries, positively engage policymakers and stakeholders through roundtables, to join the global fight against CSAM. According to Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, “public awareness and prevention campaigns such as this one are essential in ensuring that communities, families, and children are sensitized so that they are able to avoid and report child sexual abuse material online”.

Figure 2: Panelists talk about the actions in some African countries to counter child sexual abuse during the Live launch of the campaign

During the launch event which was broadcast live across several platforms including the UNODC West and Central Africa Facebook page, panelists decked in jerseys spotting the names and ages of several victims of online child sexual abuse presented the current situation of the distribution of child sexual abuse material in Africa. They also revealed the efforts being put in place (legislative and technology wise) to protect children and counter the propagation of child sensitive and offensive materials online in countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

Carmen Corbin, Advisor for UNODC’s Global Programme on Cybercrime in Africa, and who chaired the panel discussion and Q&A during the live campaign launch said that “building strong capacities in the national criminal justice sectors in Africa to investigate and prosecute online child exploitation which is one of our programme’s priorities, will create a safer Internet for all children, a place where they can learn, play and develop their talents without being threatened by predators”.

With the launch of the Child Safety Online Africa portal, anyone, anywhere on the African continent can now report any material that depicts child sexual abuse or is offensive to children. UNODC as one of the leading organizations fighting crime in any form around the world including sexual abuse crimes against children is dedicated in helping African governments and institutions develop appropriate strategies to counter such crimes.