WHO investigates allegations of sexual abuse in Ebola fight in DR Congo

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The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that it was investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of people who identified themselves as UN agency workers fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The WHO said its management and staff were “furious” over recent reports of sexual abuse by people who said they worked for the UN health agency in the Ebola campaign in the DRC.

“The actions allegedly taken by individuals who identify themselves as working for the WHO are unacceptable and will be investigated robustly,” it said in a statement.

“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible,” it said, stressing that “we do not tolerate such behavior by any of our employees, contractors or partners.”

The WHO pointed out that it had a “zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse”. “Anyone identified as involved will be held accountable and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal,” it said.

Over 50 women accuse Ebola aid workers

The WHO did not spell out the specific allegations, but the statement came after an investigation report by The New Humanitarian that more than 50 women had accused Ebola aid workers from the WHO and leading non-governmental organizations of sexual exploitation, including forcing them to have sex in exchange for a job.

The WHO said its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had launched a thorough review of the allegations as well as “broader protection issues in health care preparedness settings.”

The DRC is currently battling a new Ebola outbreak in Equateur province, which has seen around 120 cases and 50 deaths since June.

The current outbreak is the DRC’s 11th and its third in the last two years.

About a billion dollars in aid along with an army of external specialists flowed into the DRC after the much-feared bleeding fever appeared in its unstable east in 2018.

This outbreak was declared banned on June 25, 2020, following the loss of 2,287 lives – the highest Ebola toll in the history of the DRC and the second highest in the world after the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa, which killed 11,000 people.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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