An independent commission investigating sexual abuse allegations against aid workers, including from the World Health Organization, during the 10th Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in the Provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, in the Republic of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said in a statement on Tuesday that it is still at work and has given itself August 31, 2021, as deadline.
“The investigations of the Independent Commission on sexual abuse and exploitation allegations during the response to the 10th Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in the Provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, in the Republic of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are ongoing,” the commission said.
It added that the review team began its investigations on May 3, 2021, with the deployment of investigators specialized in sexual exploitation and abuse issues, in witness and victim protection issues as well as in psychosocial issues.
The field investigations are taking place in the towns of Goma, Beni, Bunia and Butembo.
“Upon its arrival in the field, the review team undertook all necessary steps at the level of United Nations agencies and local partners to achieve proper execution of its mission,” read the statement. “The Independent Commission remains determined to carry out its mandate and to finalize its work within the agreed deadline of August 31, 2021, despite the difficult context linked to the consequences of the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption in Goma, to the resurgence of the coronavirus in the region as well as the recent wave of terrorist attacks in the city of Beni.”
At least 22 women have said they were sexually exploited or abused by male aid workers responding to an Ebola crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The abuses included rape that led to unwanted pregnancies.
The women said the men offered them jobs in exchange for sex and identified themselves as working for major aid organizations, including from the WHO.
At least 14 of those claims mentioned the World Health Organization. A total of seven organizations were named.
Butembo where the allegations centered on is a major trading city that was the epicenter of the 2018-2020 outbreak of Ebola. At least 2,200 lives were lost.