“The World Health Organization, leadership and staff, are outraged by recent reports of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” the WHO said in a statement on Tuesday.
The organization said the allegations were “unacceptable” and will be “robustly investigated.”
“The actions allegedly perpetrated by individuals identifying themselves as working for WHO are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated.
“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible. We do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners.
“Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.
“The Director-General has initiated a thorough review of the specific allegations, as well as broader protection issues in health emergency response settings.
“WHO has a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse,” the WHO said.
An investigation by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that more than 50 women have accused Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organization and leading NGOs of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report said “in interviews, 51 women – many of whose accounts were backed up by aid agency drivers and local NGO workers – recounted multiple incidents of abuse during the 2018 to 2020 Ebola crisis, mainly by men who said they were international workers. The majority of the women said numerous men had either propositioned them, forced them to have sex in exchange for a job, or terminated their contracts when they refused.”