Fifty-one women have accused Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and leading non-govermental organsations (NGOs) of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The women, many of whose accounts were backed up by aid agency drivers and local NGO workers, recounted multiple incidents of abuse, according to an investigation by the New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
It was learnt that the acts were carried out mainly by men who said they were international workers, during the 2018 to 2020 Ebola crisis.
According to the investigation, the majority of the women said numerous men had either propositioned them, forced them to have sex in exchange for a job, or terminated contracts when they refused.
‘So many women were affected by this’, said one 44-year-old woman, who told reporters that to get a job she had sex with a man who said he was a WHO worker.
The investigation, conducted over almost a year, found women who described at least 30 instances of exploitation by men who said they were from the WHO, which deployed more than 1,500 people to the government-led operation to control the outbreak.
WHO said it was reviewing a ‘small number’ of sexual abuse or exploitation reports in Congo but declined to say whether they may have taken place during the Ebola outbreak in the east of the country.
WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said that the allegations stemming from the investigation were under review internally and encouraged the women involved to contact the WHO.
He said, ‘We would not tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff, contractors or partners’.
Source: Irish Times
Photo source: WHO/Pierre Virot