According to a shocking new report that was released on Tuesday, Eighty-three ‘humanitarian’ aid workers, including several that were employed by the World Health Organization (WHO), committed horrific sex abuse and exploitation while they were stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the country’s 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak.
The report was compiled by an independent commission that looked into the allegations after the Thompson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian uncovered over 50 accusations of sexual abuse by aid workers that had been submitted last year.
After investigating for months, the commission uncovered that AT LEAST 21 of the 83 offenders were employed by the WHO and had routinely demanded sex in exchange for, or to keep their jobs.
“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 explained in a press briefing.
In many cases the woman did not even have the opportunity to turn down the unwanted quid-pro-quo; several were caught off guard or alone and forcibly raped by those who were supposedly there to serve and protect them.
Many of the offenders did not use any form of protection, which caused 29 of the victimized women to become pregnant. Several of the women were even forced to have an abortion by their abusers in order to cover their crimes.
In one sickening incident, a 14-year-old girl was selling phone accessories on the side of the road when a WHO driver offered to give her a ride home. According to the report, she was instead taken to a hotel where she was raped; She later gave birth to the aid worker’s child.
The report’s findings could just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the overall scope of the sexual abuse problem by WHO employees. In fact, the co-chair of the investigation – Aïchatou Mindaoudou – acknowledged that there could easily be a larger problem because there was “no overlap” between victims who testified in past media reports and those who were interviewed.
She also added that some of the higher-ups at the WHO “were aware of what was going on and did not act.”
The WHO, for its part, still refuses to act even after the release of the report.
The organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has pledged zero tolerance on sexual abuse in the past, gave a weak apology to his employee’s victims and called the report “harrowing reading.”
“I’m sorry for what was done to you who are employed by WHO to serve and protect you.
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.”
His promise of holding the offenders to account is questionable, at best. Until now, all that has been done to the 21 known perpetrators is that they’ve been indefinitely banned from future WHO employment – only 4 have had their contracts fully terminated.
It is not even clear if the offenders will face any sort of prosecution for their crimes. The WHO director-general has said he will be referring the ‘rape cases’ to local authorities and to the offender’s home country, but did not mention his plans for any of the other sexual abuse cases – or the fact that WHO supervisors may have turned a blind eye to the assaults.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and other humanitarian organizations have promised to look into the referrals and prosecute accordingly.