The World Health Organization has vowed to take action against anyone found guilty of sexually exploiting or abusing women in its Ebola aid operation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
An investigation by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports more than 50 women were forced to trade sex for a job in the international Ebola aid operation in eastern DRC. The women have accused male aid workers from the World Health Organization and leading non-governmental organizations of abuse.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency's director-general takes the allegations of sexual abuse seriously and has ordered an immediate, thorough and transparent investigation.
"If WHO staff, partners or contractors are guilty of these allegations, WHO will take a firm decision, disciplinary decision against them — immediate dismissal or we can end our contracts with contractors or consultants," Chaib said.
Much of the alleged abuse reportedly occurred in the eastern city of Beni, which was the epicenter of a nearly two-year Ebola epidemic that killed 2,229 people before it ended in June. WHO currently is tackling another Ebola outbreak in Equateur province, which has infected 112 people, causing 48 deaths.
WHO has policies and mechanisms in place, including mandatory training programs, to prevent sexual abuse. It also has set up hotlines where victims can report violations and seek help.
Chaib said that every year, WHO reports to its member states all misconduct about which it is informed, including fraud, corruption and sexual abuse.