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WHO launches action plan after sexual exploitation scandal in Congo

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set up an action plan following a scandal relating to sexual exploitation by WHO staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN health agency is providing an initial 7.6 million dollars to set up programmes in 10 countries “with the highest risk profile,” it announced late on Thursday.

The aim is to prevent sexual exploitation. In the event of an assault, there are to be clear structures to identify perpetrators and help victims. The 10 countries include Afghanistan, Yemen, Venezuela and South Sudan.

Trainers are already in the Congolese city of Beni and other sites to train staff, according to a WHO spokesperson in Geneva. There was mandatory training in all regions on how to prevent sexual violence, he said.

In addition, new staff must sign a code of conduct prohibiting sexual exploitation.

An independent commission had investigated dozens of allegations brought to light by media against humanitarian workers in the 2018 Ebola response in Congo. It reported rapes and unwanted pregnancies.

Of 83 possible perpetrators identified, at least 21 worked at the WHO. Most had flatly denied assault or claimed the sex was consensual, the commission found. Four men were fired, according to the WHO.

Part of the action plan is to ensure that the WHO looks after the victims. This includes offers of therapy and support to find work or start their own businesses. Children born after such assaults are to receive scholarships for education and healthcare grants.

Source: GNA



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