The Hamilton Spectator

Experts slam WHO excusal of sex misconduct


Two experts appointed by the World Health Organizati­on to investigat­e allegation­s that some of its staffers sexually abused women during an Ebola outbreak in Congo dismissed the UN agency’s own efforts to excuse its handling of such misconduct as “an absurdity” on Monday, saying they were not satisfied that no senior officials have been fired.

Some of the victimized women say — nearly four years later — they are still waiting for the WHO to terminate those responsibl­e or be offered any financial compensati­on.

In October 2020, Aichatou Mindaoudou and Julienne Lusenge were named by WHO DirectorGe­neral Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s to head a panel investigat­ing reports that some WHO staffers sexually abused or exploited women in a conflict-ridden region of Congo during the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak.

Their review found there were at least 83 perpetrato­rs of abuse who worked for WHO and partners, including complaints of rape, forced abortions and the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl, in the biggest known sex abuse scandal in the UN health agency’s history.

The panel also found that three WHO managers mismanaged a sexual misconduct case first reported by the Associated Press, involving a UN doctor signing a contract to buy land for a woman he allegedly impregnate­d.

A confidenti­al UN report submitted to WHO last month concluded that the managers’ handling of that case didn’t violate WHO’s sexual exploitati­on policies, because the woman wasn’t considered a beneficiar­y of WHO aid since she didn’t receive any humanitari­an assistance.

“The restrictiv­e approach favoured by WHO is an absurdity,” Mindaoudou and Lusenge said.

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