UN peacekeepers in Haiti in 2008
UN peacekeepers in Haiti in 2008 Getty Images

UN peacekeepers paid for sex with money, electrical goods, jewellery and clothing in countries where they were deployed, a UN report found.

According to interviews with victims of alleged sexual exploitation the UN may have downplayed the scale of the problem, by under-reporting alleged offences, according to the report by the Office of Internal Oversight seen by AFP.

In Haiti, 231 people admitted to having "transactional sexual relationships" with peacekeepers in exchange for "jewellery, 'church' shoes, dresses, fancy underwear, perfume, cell phones, radios, televisions and, in a few cases, laptops."

"For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the 'triggering need'."

When peacekeepers refused to pay, some women in Haiti "withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media", according to the report.

In total, 480 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were made between 2008 and 2013, of which one third involved children. The greatest number of accusations were against peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Haiti and South Sudan.

The report looks into how the UN deals with reports of abuse, and found that assistance to victims is "severely deficient".

Under UN rules, peacekeepers are banned from taking part in "transactional sex".

The UN currently has more than 125,000 troops, police and civilians deployed around the world in 16 operations.

The organisation maintains it is enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy to allegations of sexual misconduct.