31 October 2008The sexual exploitation of children is a matter for concern in Latvia despite the low number of reported cases, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today, warning that continued vigilance is needed from the State to protect its young. While noting that Latvia had taken clear steps to guard against child abuse, exploitation and violence, Najat M’jid Maalla, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, stressed continuing threats to children in the country.Ms. Maalla highlighted the increase of pornography and child sex tourism and the use of the internet by paedophiles, abusers and sex tourists, as well as the growing number of families facing difficulties in the Baltic State as forces eroding the safety of young people.During a six-day visit that ended yesterday, Ms. Maalla met with State associations, the media and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and toured seven centres and organizations involved in child protection, according to a press release issued by the Special Rapporteur.She was encouraged to see first-hand Latvia’s efforts – in legislation, law enforcement, social and health-care support, and education and prevention programmes – to reduce the exploitation of children. However, Ms. Maalla expressed concern that the increasing cost of child-care had resulted in the closure of some centres and a reduction of staff in others. She also urged the media to be more active in raising awareness, providing information and shaping public opinion on issues concerning the sexual exploitation of children.Ms. Maalla, a paediatrician in Morocco, has served as an independent and unpaid Special Rapporteur since May and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.