An independent investigation led by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation has uncovered that more than 80 aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been involved in incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation.
The investigation found that the workers had demanded sex from women in exchange for jobs during the country’s Ebola crisis.
Revelations also show that more than 50 women have come forward to accuse aid workers from WHO and other charities of engaging in sexual exploitation between 2018 and 2020.
The report said that 21 of the 83 accused aid workers were from the WHO. The allegations from the victims ranged from sexual harassment to nine allegations of rape committed by both local and international aid staff.
A 14-year-old girl said in the report that she was offered a ride by a WHO driver while she was selling cellphone cards on the side of the road. Instead of bringing her home, the driver took her to a hotel where she said she was raped. The girl eventually got pregnant and gave birth to the WHO driver’s child.
Other victims said that even after they got the job positions that they were promised, they still continued to be sexually harassed by charity organization members in supervisory positions. Some were forced to continue giving sexual favors to keep their jobs or get better pay.
Commission member, Malick Coulibaly, said most of the victims were promised jobs in exchange for sexual favors. According to him, many of the perpetrators refused to use protection and impregnated 29 women. Some of the women were reportedly forced to have an abortion by the perpetrators.
Director-general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued an apology to the victims for the “inexcusable” actions of some of its members. He also assured victims that the people involved in the hideous acts will be held fully accountable.
The WHO’s regional director, Matshidiso Moeti said she was “horrified and heartbroken” after having read the report. The organization said it has already removed the members that were identified in the report and its contract with four other accused people has been terminated.