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World News | ‘Shame on WHO:’ Victims of sexual misconduct slam UN response

World News | ‘Shame on WHO:’ Victims of sexual misconduct slam UN response

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KAMPALA, Feb. 9 (AP) — A woman fell victim to a World Health Organization doctor in Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak. .

On Monday, the Associated Press reported on a confidential U.N. report that excused mishandling of cases by senior staff, citing “loopholes” in the WHO’s definition of victims of such conduct.

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Anifa, a young Congolese woman who worked at an Ebola treatment center in Beni during the Ebola outbreak, said she could not understand how the WHO seemed to justify wrongdoing.

“It is a disgrace for WHO to give jobs to men who do not respect women,” she said, declining to give her full name for fear it would affect her future job prospects.

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Anifa said a WHO doctor offered her a job in exchange for sex during the Ebola outbreak, but she turned it down. The Associated Press did not identify a victim of sexual abuse.

“Maybe the WHO doesn’t consider us because we are African?” she asked.

“As long as I am alive, I will hate the whole World Health Organization until (perpetrators) are charged and punished.”

Paula Donovan, co-leader of the “Code Blue” campaign, which seeks to hold the United Nations accountable for sexual crimes, said WHO member states took a different approach to allegations of sexual misconduct at the agency because they could not Weakening the agency during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Countries can’t hold the WHO to account because it’s doing what the U.S. and other rich countries won’t be doing during COVID, which is trying to figure out how to get vaccines to the poor.”

Donor countries may have made a disturbing calculation of the cost of responding to the global health crisis, she said.

“It’s very frustrating, but officials have basically concluded that this is the price that has to be paid and that some women will be sexually exploited.”

The U.N. report focuses on a case first reported by The Associated Press in May 2021 involving Dr. Jean-Paul Ngandu, who worked on the Ebola response in northeastern Congo in 2019.

Shortly after Ngandu arrived, he met a young woman at a local restaurant. The pair had sex later that night, but the relationship soured and the woman and her aunt complained to WHO that Ngandu had impregnated her.

The Associated Press obtained a notarized copy of the agreement between Ngandu and the woman, signed by two WHO staff, in which he agreed to pay for her health care and buy her land.

After raising concerns about Ngandu’s case with WHO headquarters in Geneva, it “decided not to investigate the complaint because it did not violate WHO’s (sexual exploitation and abuse) policy,” the UN report said.

This is because the woman was not a WHO “beneficiary,” meaning she did not receive any humanitarian or emergency assistance, and therefore did not qualify as a victim under WHO policy, the report said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly said he is “outraged” by reports of sexual misconduct.

But so far, none of the senior staff linked to allegations of sexual abuse in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak in Congo have been fired – more than 80 staff were found to have abused or exploited women under WHO guidance .

Some global health experts have dismissed Tedros’ public outrage.

“No one has lost their job because of it, it undermines the integrity of the WHO,” said Sophie Harman, a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London.

“If WHO is serious about gender equality, it’s time for Tedros to step down.”

The WHO communications director insisted the agency was committed to addressing sexual misconduct.

“WHO is committed to continuing to strengthen deeply and broadly our policies and practices, staffing, training and resourcing to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment,” said Gabriela Stern.

After the Congolese allegations became public, WHO created a new unit to address sexual exploitation, led by Dr Gaya Gamhewage.

In an interview with U.N. investigators, Gamhewage said she knew nothing about, or even read, the WHO’s sexual misconduct policies before her appointment. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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