The allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers who identified themselves as working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are deeply horrific and heart-breaking, the agency’s Africa director has said.
In a statement late on Wednesday, WHO Africa director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said she strongly supported director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ decision to initiate a thorough review of the allegations.
A months-long investigation by journalists from The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that men who identified themselves as being with WHO had been accused of sexual abuse by some 30 women.
Fifty-one women alleged that they had been sexually exploited or abused overall by mostly foreign men identifying themselves as aid workers in Beni, the main city at the centre of what was the DRC’s worst ever Ebola outbreak, between 2018 and June this year.
“I stand with anyone who has fallen victim to sexual violation during the Ebola response in the eastern DRC,” Moeti said.
“I will do everything I can to contribute and ensure that a full, fair and transparent investigation takes place within the shortest possible time and that any perpetrators of these revolting acts face serious consequences. I will work with my colleagues in the region to safeguard the vulnerable in all our future operations.”
On Tuesday, the main WHO body vowed that any of its staff working as part of the agency’s Ebola response team in the DRC found to have been involved in sexual exploitation and abuse, would face “serious consequences, including instant dismissal”.
Other humanitarian organisations whose workers were reportedly implicated by the accusers include the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Organisation for Migration, Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), Oxfam, World Vision, medical charity ALIMA and Congo’s health ministry.