WHO to probe ‘sexual exploitation’ by aid workers in DR Congo

The World Health Organization (WHO) has pledged to investigate allegations that aid workers tackling the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo sexually abused and exploited women.

WHO and other aid agency staff were accused by 50 women in a joint investigation by two news agencies.

Local women were allegedly plied with drinks, “ambushed” in hospitals, forced to have sex, and two became pregnant.

The allegations cover the period between 2018 and March this year.

The New Humanitarian news agency and the Thomson Reuters Foundation have carried out an almost year-long investigation.

The WHO said the allegations would be “robustly investigated”.

“Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal,” it said in a statement.

“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible.”

More than 2,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo.

The WHO, which spearheaded global efforts to curb the spread of the outbreak, declared it over in June this year.

The UN and aid agencies have previously promised zero tolerance of sexual abuse following similar allegations against some of their staff in other countries.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it would scrutinise the WHO findings closely, adding: “Sexual exploitation and abuse are completely abhorrent. We regularly assess all of our partners against the highest safeguarding standards.”

Most of the allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were against men, including doctors, said to be from the WHO. At least 30 women made allegations against them, the news agencies reported.

The next highest number of allegations – made by eight women – were against men said to be from DR Congo’s health ministry.

Two other UN agencies, and four international charities, were also named in the report. (Courtesy BBC)

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