An “outraged” World Health Organization (W.H.O.) announced Wednesday it is to launch a vigorous investigation into its own field staff. This follows repeated accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse in Ebola response teams operating remotely in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
W.H.O. and other aid agency staff have been accused of a series of sexual attacks by 50 women in a joint investigation by two news agencies, the BBC reports.
Local women were allegedly plied with drinks, “ambushed” in hospitals, forced to have group sex with aid workers, and two became pregnant. Jobs in return for repeated sexual favors has also been alleged against both men and women.
The allegations cover the period between 2018 and March this year.
“The actions allegedly perpetrated by individuals identifying themselves as working for W.H.O. are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated,” the organization said in a statement.
The Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu has initiated a review of the specific allegations, as well as broader protection issues in health emergency response settings.
The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible, Tedros said, adding leadership and staff, are all outraged by the reports.
“We do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners,” he said. “Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.”
Dr. Tedros said W.H.O. has a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse and those found guilty can expect to be treated very firmly indeed.
The U.N. and its aid agencies have previously been accused of sexual abuse following similar allegations against some of their staff in other countries, as Breitbart News reported.
Current accusations include many women who said they were forced to have sex in exchange for U.N. jobs, with one describing it as a “passport to employment” and another said “they hire you with eyeballs”.
Women said they were approached outside supermarkets in the eastern city of Beni, job recruitment centres, and hospitals where lists of successful candidates were posted.
The news agencies also quoted one woman as saying that when it came to the U.N. and its agencies, including the W.H.O., “the practice of men demanding sex had become so common that it was the only way to get a job.”