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The drug problem that Palau faces is intertwined with sexual exploitation of young girls.

Ismael Aguon who is the director of Narcotics Enforcement Agency(NEA) said, “I think the youngest male drug user is 13 and female is 12.”

According to Aguon, in exchange of methamphetamine (ice) minor females are sexually exploited by drug peddlers.

The NEA has been reaching out to school students from past three years talking to them about the dangers of getting into the consumption of illegal narcotic substances.

In 2017, the investigation held by NEA led to the trial of Wilhelm Rekis Aichi, Willibolt Demei, Mtoched Hideo and Sylvester Oiterong where all of them were proven to have links to hard drugs especially meth and their involvement with minor girls.

According to statements of Helenda Oimei who investigated the case, it started with the mother of one of the minor girls reported her to be missing. The minor females were believed to be with Oiterong and Demi who were allegedly giving the three females ice.

The minors were eventually found in a hotel room with a man named Melvin Iyechad who was 53 years old at the time. The officers who were involved in initial search and recovery of these minor girls were from the CID, BPS and NEA.

In the three separate statements given by the minors to the CID as to how they came in contact with Iyechad revealed the involvement of Aichi, Oiterong and Demei and uncovered the sexual abuse the young girls had to face.

One of the minors stated in the report that Sylvester introduced her to Melvin as his uncle who offered them ice to smoke. This pattern persisted in the statements of other minors as well where Sylvester introduced different “uncles” with time.

One of the minor victims said in her statements that Sylvester would ask her to have sex with a much older man who in turn would give her meth that she would consume with Sylvester.

While there statements given by the victims of direct sexual abuse by the now convicts, there were also statements by the convicts. According to the statements, the minors were exploited sexually by Aichi, Oiterong and Demi at different occasions which sometimes were on the influence of substance and sometimes in complete senses with a perspective of exchanging sex for drugs.

“There are handful who died because of the problems associated with drugs especially meth” said Aguon. He further added that marijuana acts as a gateway to stronger and hard drugs.

The social worker at a public office who has worked in the field of child sexual abuse previously and now deals with drug addicts said, “They[minors] tell us that it is very common in high schools. The statistics only cover the surface.”

She further said that since Meth is expensive, the girls are either asked to exchange sexual favors for drugs or are made “runners”. According to her, the runners are girls who are required to pull in more girls in the system.

“They [drug dealers] find more girls from other runners. It is a chain.” She added.

She reveals that the drug dealers entice young females with cellphones, airtimes and car rides who then introduce them to drugs and the young girls end up getting more of their friends along eventually.

“Most cases come from broken families or single parents. There are missing factors in their family life that lead these kids easily towards this kind of lifestyle” the social worker said. (By Eshan Kalyanikar)