World Health Organization leaders responded with shock and sorrow after an independent panel released an investigative report that found widespread sexual abuse committed by workers during the 2020 Ebola outbreak in the country’s east.
Malick Coulibaly, a panel member, said the commission interviewed dozens of women who were offered work in exchange for sex. They also interviewed nine rape victims, some of whom also endured forced abortions.
All told, at least 20 WHO staff members are among 83 people implicated in dozens of alleged cases of abuses during the outbreak. The majority of the WHO-linked abusers were Congolese staff hired on a temporary basis, as some 2,800 workers were deployed at the height of the outbreak.
The failure to train WHO staff in preventing sexual abuse, and a refusal to accept reports of incidents, was found in nine villages in the conflict zones of North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where the Ebola outbreak occurred.
The release of the findings represented a “dark day for WHO,” said the organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He said the incidents also betray WHO colleagues committed to their work of serving others.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the agency was “humbled, horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of the inquiry.
Tedros said there would be “severe consequences” for perpetrators and all leaders would be held “accountable for inaction.”
Image: WHO file