Sex abuse at WHO

British, European and American diplomats and donors have voiced serious concerns about how the World Health Organization handled sex abuse allegations involving its own staff during an outbreak of Ebola in Congo.

Recently, the AP published an investigation documenting that senior WHO management was informed of multiple sex abuse allegations involving at least two of its doctors during the epidemic in 2018.

A notarized contract obtained by the AP showed that two WHO staffers signed off on an agreement between WHO’s Dr. Jean-Paul Ngandu and a young woman he allegedly impregnated in Congo. In it, Ngandu promised to pay the young woman money, cover her pregnancy costs and buy her a plot of land. The contract was made “to protect the integrity and reputation of the organization,” Ngandu said.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, speaks to a health official at a newly established Ebola response center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo on Aug. 10, 2018. British, European and American diplomats and donors have voiced serious concerns about how the World Health Organization handled sex abuse allegations involving their own staff during an outbreak of Ebola in Congo.

“The U.K. has a zero tolerance approach when it comes to sexual exploitation and harassment – and that extends to all international organizations that we fund,” said Simon Manley, the U.K.’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva. “We are speaking with WHO and other major donors as a matter of urgency to establish the facts.” Britain is WHO’s second biggest donor, after the U.S.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said more must be done to address sex abuse issues at WHO. “Those responsible for any abuse must be held accountable,” it said.

In Congo, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator David McLachlan-Karr said he was determined to punish any humanitarian workers found guilty of sexual misconduct.

“All these allegations must be investigated and the victims must be heard,” he said in a statement. “These allegations undermine the trust of the people we serve.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the agency’s third-largest funder, said it expects U.N. agencies to conduct thorough investigations into sexual abuse as quickly as possible.

“Our role as a funder is to hold organizations that receive grants from the foundation to the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” the foundation said.

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