- Title: Women's rights group hails WHO's response to Congo sex abuse
- Date: 29th September 2021
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (French) COORDINATOR OF 'ONE GIRL ONE LEADER', ESPERENCE KAZI, SAYING: "We encourage the WHO to continue what it has shown the community. That really it's people who have abused women and girls in our community that have to be severely punished for what they have committed, abuse and sexual exploitation." KAZI'S HANDS KAZI'S FACE
- Embargoed: 13th October 2021 00:56
- Keywords: DRC EBOLA WHO
- Location: BENI AND BUTEMBO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- City: BENI AND BUTEMBO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of the
- Topics: Africa,Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA004EWMUP1J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: More than 80 aid workers including some employed by the World Health Organization (WHO) were involved in sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an independent commission said on Tuesday (September 28).
The probe was prompted by an investigation last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian in which more than 50 women accused aid workers from the WHO and other charities of demanding sex in exchange for jobs between 2018-2020.
In its long-awaited report, the commission found that at least 21 of 83 suspected perpetrators were employed by the WHO, and that the abuses, which included nine allegations of rape, were committed by both national and international staff.
Many of the male perpetrators refused to use a condom and 29 of the women became pregnant and some were forced to later abort by their abusers, he added.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has pledged zero tolerance on sexual abuse and is said to be seeking a second term at the United Nations health body, said the report made "harrowing reading" and apologised to the victims.
The known perpetrators have been banned from future WHO employment while the contracts of four people employed by the body have been terminated, officials said.
It is not clear if the perpetrators will face prosecution.
Tedros said he planned to refer the rape allegations to Congo and to the countries of the suspected perpetrators.
Some of them have yet to be identified.
Victims' representatives in the one-time Ebola hotspot of Beni in eastern Congo welcomed the WHO's response, but urged it to do more.
Some women who were already employed told the review team that they continued to be sexually harassed by men in supervisory positions who forced them to have sex to keep their jobs, get paid or get a better paid position.
Some said they had been dismissed for refusing sex while others did not get the jobs they wanted even after consenting.
In June last year, Congo's government announced the end of the two-year outbreak of Ebola that killed more than 2,200 people - the second-largest outbreak since the virus was identified in 1976.
Congo and other aid agencies have also pledged investigations into the sex abuse.
Congo's minister of human rights was not immediately available for comment.
(Production: Erikas Mwisi, Edwin Waita)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None