WHO investigates sexual abuse by its staff in Congo

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Sex for work. Or dismissal in the case of no access. It is an example of how workers of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the natives of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the framework of the last crisis of Ebola of 2018. A report prepared by The New Humanitarian – a news agency specializing in humanitarian information – has uncovered the scandal by verifying that fifty women suffered sexual abuse allegedly committed by personnel displaced to the country in humanitarian work. Several women became pregnant.

The WHO, far from denying the accusations, has announced a “spirited” research against those persons who, allegedly, after identifying themselves as part of this office, committed sexual abuse during its deployment in 2018 in the middle of the health crisis. “The actions allegedly perpetrated by people who identify themselves as workers for the WHO are unacceptable and will be vigorously investigated,” the United Nations body confirmed in a statement.

“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We do not tolerate such behavior by our staff, contractors or partners,” the statement continues, announcing that anyone involved will be held accountable and faced with serious consequences, “including immediate dismissal.”

It is not the first time that humanitarian personnel have been involved in sexual scandals committed against vulnerable people due to the extreme need and helplessness in which they find themselves. One of the scariest cases was the abuse committed by United Nations blue helmets against Haitian women sent as a result of devastating earthquake that ravaged the country in the 2010.

Fifty victims

Published research indicates that more than 50 women they would have been subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation by alleged officials and workers of this United Nations office, as well as other non-governmental organizations.

“Most of the women said that numerous men had made proposals to them, forced them to have sex in exchange for a job or had terminated their contracts when they refused,” said the study, which tells how at least two women were they would have stayed pregnant as a result of these abuses. “Some women were cooks, cleaners and workers with short-term contracts, earning between 50 and 100 dollars a month, more than double the normal salary in the country,” explains the report.

WHO traveled to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to face between August 2018 and the end of June 2020 which was considered as second largest Ebola outbreak in the world. During that time, 3,481 people contracted the disease and 2,299 died.

It was about tenth Ebola outbreak in the African country and it was particularly difficult to control, not only because of its size, but also because of the added difficulties involved in doing so in the midst of fighting between various rebel groups and the government.

An Ebola outbreak is currently in full swing in the northwest of the DRC, which was declared on June 1 and has caused 124 cases and 50 deaths, although 67 patients have been recovered, according to WHO data valid until last day 27.

The eleventh epidemic of this highly contagious disease in the DRC affects the province of Ecuador, with a population of more than one million inhabitants.

That area already suffered the ninth outbreak of the Ebola virus between May and July 2018, when 54 cases were registered, including 33 deaths and 21 survivors.

The Congolese authorities declared on June 25 the end of the tenth epidemic, which devastated three provinces in the northeast of the country (North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri) since August 1, 2018, with a balance of 3,463 cases, 2,280 deaths and 1,171 survivors, according to the latest figures issued by the WHO.

This epidemic is the worst in the history of the DRC and the second most serious in the world, after the one that devastated West Africa from 2014 to 2016, in which 11,300 people died and there were more than 28,500 cases, although those figures – according to the OMS- may be higher.

The Ebola disease, discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976 – then called Zaire – is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals.

This fever causes severe bleeding and can reach a 90% mortality rate. Its first symptoms are a sudden, high fever, severe weakness, and muscle, head, and throat pain, as well as vomiting.

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