The World Health Organization says it has created a commission to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by WHO workers during the response to the tenth Ebola virus epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to a WHO news release Thursday, the commission will “swiftly establish the facts, identify and support survivors, ensure that any ongoing abuse has stopped, and hold perpetrators to account.”
The commission will be made up of seven members, including two co-chairs the WHO says have “expertise in sexual exploitation and abuse, emergency response, and investigations,” said the statement.
The co-chairs are Aïchatou Mindaoudou, former minister of foreign affairs and of social development of Niger and Julienne Lusenge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the WHO, the Ebola pandemic in the DRC provinces of North Kivu and Ituri is the second-largest recorded outbreak. The two-year-long epidemic was officially declared over on June 25, 2020. Some 2,300 people have died.
According to the Reuters news agency, the allegations of sexual assault come from 30 women against men, who said they were working for the WHO.
The women’s claims, which Reuters reports have been backed up by aid agency drivers and local NGO workers, include allegations that men forced them to exchange sex for jobs. Some say they lost jobs when they refused to have sex.
The WHO responded that it was “outraged” by the reports.