The World Health Organization is one of many groups that have attempted to take the moral high ground throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report, however, has alleged that multiple WHO employees maliciously abused women they were supposed to be helping.
According to Reuters, a 2020 investigation from the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian saw over 50 women accuse WHO employees of propositioning them for sex in exchange for jobs from 2018-2020.
This led to an investigation from an independent commission, which found 83 aid workers who were suspected of sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At least 21 of them were employed by the WHO, Reuters reported.
The full extent of the misconduct is unknown, but at least one of the 21 WHO employees has been accused of rape.
“The review team has established that the presumed victims were promised jobs in exchange for sexual relations or in order to keep their jobs,” commission member Malick Coulibaly said.
Further details of the abuse are even more horrifying. Reuters said many of the alleged abusers refused to wear condoms, resulting in 29 of the women becoming pregnant. At least some of the perpetrators then allegedly forced the victims to have abortions.
“What happened to you should never happen to anyone,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, addressing the victims. “It is inexcusable.”
“It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account.”
According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape and any gender-based violence are crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is not clear whether the alleged perpetrators will face prosecution. At least one of the victims named in the report was a minor.
“One girl, a 14-year-old named as ‘Jolianne’ in the report, told the commission she was selling phone recharge cards on the side of the road in April 2019 in Mangina when a WHO driver offered her a ride home,” Reuters reported.
“Instead he took her to a hotel where she says he raped her and she later gave birth to his child.”
According to The Associated Press, four WHO employees have been fired over their alleged abuse, and two others were placed on leave. But these actions came after the WHO reportedly failed to act on its initial knowledge of the situation.
Investigation co-chair Aïchatou Mindaoudou said some higher-ups within the WHO “were aware of what was going on and did not act,” Reuters reported.
She added that the women interviewed in this investigation were separate from those interviewed in last year’s investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian, which suggests the abuse could be a widespread problem.
The WHO can issue all the scripted apologies it wishes, but that will not change the fact that the organization is garnering a reputation of serial sexual abuse. Meanwhile, Tedros has taken a holier-than-thou attitude about his organization’s response to COVID-19.
On Friday, he suggested wealthier countries are being selfish by failing to produce vaccines not just for themselves but also for every country that has not been able to afford enough vaccines.
“High-income countries who are vaccinating their population significantly are starting to see COVID-19 pandemic as if it’s not their problem,” he said. “That is dangerous.”
“When they say that the problem is not affecting us anymore, meaning the rest of the world will be ignored. … If there is one word that can explain it, it’s ‘greed.'”
Waive intellectual property. pic.twitter.com/Ylz5mOkt1W
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 14, 2021
In Tedros’ mind, countries like America are evil for not providing the rest of the world with a vaccine we created. Meanwhile, his employees were raping African women during the last four years instead of helping fight a disease that is far more deadly than COVID-19.
According to Global Finance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the sixth-poorest country in the entire world. If the WHO really wants to help poverty-stricken countries, it can begin by stopping its employees from exploiting some of the world’s most impoverished women instead of ignoring the scandal until it becomes public.
Tedros and the WHO as a whole are so obviously hypocritical that it is hard to imagine they cannot see it. But as is often the case, those who have the most inflated egos have become blind to their own shortcomings.
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