A panel commissioned by the World Health Organisation has identified more than 80 alleged cases of sex abuse during the UN health agency’s response to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – including claims implicating 20 WHO staff members.
The panel released its findings on Tuesday, months after an Associated Press investigation found senior WHO management was informed of multiple abuse claims in 2019 but failed to stop the harassment, and even promoted one of the managers involved.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appointed the panel’s co-chairs to investigate the claims last October, after media reports claimed unnamed humanitarian officials sexually abused women during the Ebola outbreak that began in the DRC in 2018.
At the time, Dr Tedros declared he was “outraged” and vowed that any staff members connected to the abuse would be dismissed immediately.
The AP published evidence in May showing that Dr Michel Yao, a senior WHO official overseeing the Congo outbreak response, was informed in writing of multiple sex abuse allegations.
Dr Yao was later promoted and recently headed the WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, which ended in June.
WHO doctor Jean-Paul Ngandu and two other agency officials also signed a contract promising to buy land for a young woman Dr Ngandu allegedly impregnated. Dr Ngandu said he was pressured to do so to protect the WHO’s reputation.
Some of the women who say they were victimised by WHO officials said they hoped those involved would be severely punished.
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