The World Health Organization was horrified to learn Tuesday from the report of the independent investigators’ probe it mandated that it is the agency to blame for clear structural failures and individual negligence in the case of sexual abuse allegations against its staff in the DR Congo.
Based on the interviews of numerous women who were offered work in exchange for sex, or who were victims of rape, it was established with certainty that 21 out of 83 identified alleged perpetrators were WHO workers.
The independent investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by WHO staff in Congo focused on allegations of abuses committed by locally hired WHO personnel as well as some of its international staff.
The abuse occurred between 2018 and 2020 while WHO was fighting an Ebola outbreak in the DRC.
Following the report’s release, one of the alleged victims named only as Shekinah, stressed that she would like her attacker to be punished severely as a lesson to other doctors of the WHO that consider themselves untouchable.
The special commission cited in the report individual negligence that may amount to professional misconduct and underscored the perception of impunity of the institution’s staff on the part of alleged victims.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, stressed that the report has left her humbled, horrified and heartbroken, especially considering the exposed concerns that senior WHO figures who showed unpreparedness to manage the risks of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse and failed to halt harassment or exploitation.
She underlined that WHO leadership apologize to these women and girls.
The 35-page grim report also points that the scale of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse contributed to the increased vulnerability of the victims who were not provided with the support and assistance they needed after such degrading experiences.
Describing the report as harrowing, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he is sorry for the actions of people the WHO employed to serve and protect citizens in the Congo.
It was Tedros that appointed independent investigators in October 2020 to handle complaints raised about the actions of WHO stafd in the region that left him “outraged” at the time.
Julie London from the Congolese Union of Media Women, which has supported the victims, called for compensation from the WHO, underlying that the UN agency must also consider repatriating the women traumatized by the rapes as well as their children born as a result of the rapes.