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WHO representatives apologize after revealing cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by 21 employees during the response to the Ebola crisis in Congo.
WHO representatives apologized after revealing cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by 21 employees during its response to the Ebola crisis in Congo. Photo: AP

WHO apologizes after confirming sexual abuse scandal in Congo

On Thursday, Sept. 30, the World Health Organization confirmed that 21 employees sexually abused a number women and girls in Congo.

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A panel commissioned by the World Health Organization identified on Tuesday, Sept. 28, more than 80 alleged cases of sexual abuse during the organization's response to an Ebola outbreak in Congo. These allegations implicate 21 WHO emplotyees as suspected of abusing at least 63 women and girls between 2018 and 2020

An internal commission of inquiry determined after a year-long investigation that some of the victims were lured with false promises of jobs in exchange for sex. It also received reports of nine possible rapes and extortion of women who were forced to have abortions after being abused. Other women reported being repeatedly harassed to keep their jobs or fired for refusing to have sex.

It is known that the abuses "took place in hotels and in rented houses," and that the victims "in most cases, the women were forced to have abortions after being abused," and that the victims "were mostly people in a very precarious economic and social situation," said Malick Coulibaly, former Minister of Justice of Mali and a member of the investigating commission.

After the preliminary results of the investigation were released, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, general director of WHO apologized to the victims, and said he will take responsibility for the "systemic failure" revealed by the investigation. Adhanom Ghebreyesus has promised reforms in the organization to prevent situations like this from recurring.

The report also stated that WHO's error in recruiting staff is responsible for the infection of 3,400 people, of whom 2,300 died.

Finally, he indicated that four of the suspects have already been removed from their posts and he will take the necessary measures to ensure that none of the 21 alleged attackers return to work at WHO or other agencies linked to the United Nations.

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