More than 80 individuals, including 21 World Health Organization workers, were involved in incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the Central African nation fought on record the world’s second largest Ebola outbreak, ‘ an official report found.
In a long-awaited, independent 35-page query Published Tuesday, the commission of inquiry said nine of the allegations were of rape, some of which allegedly took place from possible work. In some cases, alleged offenders refused to wear condoms. Some of the alleged victims said they were forced by their abusers to have an abortion after becoming pregnant, “if necessary, by giving them drugs or even injections”.
According to the report, a total of 29 pregnancies were recorded after sexual abuse, of which 22 were executed. According to the report, the abuse was committed by both national and international staff. The epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, which lasted between 2018 and 2020, was in North Kivu, a conflict zone.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has been the director general of the WHO since 2017, apologized to the victims in a press release on Tuesday.
“I am sorry for what has been done to you by people appointed to the WHO to serve and protect you,” he said, promising further action, adding that the global health service had the contracts of four people still employed , terminated by the organization when he became aware of the allegations against them.
“The WHO staff’s failure to respond adequately to reports of sexual exploitation and abuse is as severe as the events themselves,” he added.
Tedros, the first African to lead the UN health service, wants to be re-elected for a second term as director-general, according to people familiar with the matter, without an obvious rival.
His native Ethiopia has not officially said it will not support the reappointment of Tedros – once a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, embroiled in a civil war with the government in Addis Ababa – but it is unlikely to happen, officials have previously indicated. He called the situation in Tigray “appalling”, while Ethiopian officials accused him of obtaining diplomatic support and weapons for the TPLF, which he denied.
Tedros said of the allegations of abuse: ‘This issue has not been put to me. I probably should have asked questions, and the next steps we take are that we should ask questions. He did not answer a question as to whether he was considering resigning as director-general. The WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report noted that investigators “could not establish that Tedros” or other high-ranking officials “were individually, directly and immediately notified of any incident of sexual exploitation and abuse before being released to the press”. It added that it “currently has no information that could cause Tedros personal liability [and other officials] with regard to the mishandling of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse ”.
Aïchatou Mindaoudou, co-chair of the commission of inquiry, said investigators did not know at the start of the inquiry that “there were some at the higher level at the WHO who were aware of what was going on and did not act. We only discovered this during our investigation. ”
According to the report, the WHO became aware of the incidents in early May 2019, according to internal documents the commission reviewed.
Julienne Lusenge, also co-chair, said there were “failures, negligence and lack of proper process, investigations that were not started immediately on the basis of allegations, just after supervisors were informed”.
Investigators will travel to Goma in the DRC to present the report there, she said. Mindaoudou thanks journalists for first bringing the allegations to light.
The DRC was previously a focal point of sexual abuse by the United Nations, primarily by peacekeepers.