Stories Around the Globe

DRC Congo: ‘WHO’ Workers Accused of Sexual Assaults

Female WHO Workers and Volunteers Credit: TRTWorld

More than 50 women accused aid workers from the WHO and leading NGOs of sexual exploitation and abuse which includes offering sex in exchange for a job. The majority of the women said numerous men had either propositioned them, forced them to have sex in exchange for a job, or terminated their contracts when they refused.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that there is an ongoing investigation into claims of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).The alleged crime was committed by individuals who identified themselves as WHO workers during the epidemic.

Women said they were plied with drinks, others were ambushed in offices and hospitals, and some locked in rooms by men who promised them jobs or threatened to fire them if they did not comply.

Some women said the abuse occurred as recently as March. Reporting only focused on Beni town – one of the outbreak’s epicentres. It did not extend to other hotspots.

A 44 year old woman told reporters that ‘So many women were affected by this.’ and that to get a job she had sex with a man who said he was a WHO worker. She and the other women spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Some identifying details have been removed to protect their identities.

‘I can’t think of someone who worked in the response who didn’t have to offer something,’ she added.

WHO spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib reiterated the consequences saying ‘anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.’

‘We would not tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff, contractors, or partners.’

The investigation which was published by the Humanitarian News Agency (TNH) on its twitter handle reads: ‘After a more than one-year investigation, @NewHumanitarian and @TRF Stories have uncovered claims of sexual abuse or exploitation of more than 50 women by aid workers in Democratic Republic of Congo.’

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared in early June, 2020 that there was an Ebola outbreak, making it the country’s eleventh in just over 40 years.

The previous outbreak led to 2,287 deaths and 3,470 cases just within the period of August 2018 and June 2020.

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