The World Health Organization is one of many groups that have attempted to take the moral high ground throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report, however, has alleged that multiple WHO employees maliciously abused women they were supposed to be helping.
According to Reuters, a 2020 investigation from the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian saw over 50 women accuse WHO employees of propositioning them for sex in exchange for jobs from 2018-2020.
This led to an investigation from an independent commission, which found 83 aid workers who were suspected of sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At least 21 of them were employed by the WHO, Reuters reported.
The full extent of the misconduct is unknown, but at least one of the 21 WHO employees has been accused of rape.
“The review team has established that the presumed victims were promised jobs in exchange for sexual relations or in order to keep their jobs,” commission member Malick Coulibaly said.
Further details of the abuse are even more horrifying. Reuters said many of the alleged abusers refused to wear condoms, resulting in 29 of the women becoming pregnant. At least some of the perpetrators then allegedly forced the victims to have abortions.
“What happened to you should never happen to anyone,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, addressing the victims. “It is inexcusable.”
“It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account.”
According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape and any gender-based violence are crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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It is not clear whether the alleged perpetrators will face prosecution. At least one of the victims named in the report was a minor.
“One girl, a 14-year-old named as ‘Jolianne’ in the report, told the commission she was selling phone recharge cards on the side of the road in April 2019 in Mangina when a WHO driver offered her a ride home,” Reuters reported.
“Instead he took her to a hotel where she says he raped