WHO employees reportedly sexually abused 50 women in the Congo during Ebola outbreak

A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021. Denis Balibouse/REUTERS

Nearly two dozen World Health Organization employees sexually abused 50 women during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an independent commission said during a media briefing on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

A 35-page report said there were sexual abuse allegations against 83 aid workers – and declared that 21 out of 83 alleged perpetrators were employed by WHO – between 2018 and 2020. About 29 out of the 50 women that were raped or coerced into having sex became pregnant and some of them were forced by employees to have abortions, Reuters reported.

A 44-year-old woman told Reuters reporters that a WHO employee told her she was obligated to have sex to get a job. “So many women were affected by this,” she said.

Some of the women said that they were repeatedly forced to have sex with their superiors at the organization. “I can’t think of someone who worked in the response who didn’t have to offer something,” the woman told Reuters.

BBC reported that an unknown number of local women were also sexually abused during the same time frame – two women became pregnant. They were reportedly “ambushed in hospitals,” provided with drinks, and raped, according to BBC. Not all perpetrators have been identified, but those that are known have been terminated from WHO employment, according to Reuters.

The investigation is currently ongoing, but it’s unknown if the perpetrators will face prosecution, according to Reuters. However, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the allegations against the perpetrators will be passed on to Congo and to their respective countries. It is unclear what other aid agencies have allegations against them. “What happened to you should never happen to anyone. It is inexcusable.

It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account,” Ghebreyesus said to the victims during the press briefing. He apologized to the victims and assured the “wholesale reform of our structures and culture.” The World Health Organization did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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