The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “outraged” by the revelations of alleged sexual violence perpetrated by his staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), promising swift action against anyone involved.
On Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus promised in Geneva “serious sanctions,” including “immediate dismissal” for anyone involved.
Anyone implicated “will have to answer for their actions,” he told the press, adding that an investigation was launched immediately after the revelations by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Mentioning “a betrayal” of the people WHO assists, Tedros also added that such abuses will not be tolerated from staff, collaborators or partners.
In interviews, 51 women said they had been sexually exploited by Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organization and leading NGOs between 2018 and 2020.
The majority of those women – whose accounts were often backed up by aid agency drivers and local NGO workers – said that numerous men had propositioned them, forced them to have sex in exchange for a job, or terminated their contracts when they refused.
“So many women were affected by this,” said one 44-year-old woman, who said that to get a job she had sex with a man who said he was a WHO worker. “I can’t think of someone who worked in the response who did not have to offer something.”
The WHO takes these accusations “seriously” and assumes that victims do not lie, said Michael Ryan, head of the emergency programme at the organisation. “Something clearly did not work” in the training, selection of staff and follow-up, he insisted, even though significant efforts had already been made.
Tedros promised further announcements as the investigation continues.
The Brussels Times