Nearly two dozen women in DR Congo have presented allegations of sexual abuse by aid workers during an Ebola outbreak, adding to the scandal that erupted last year, according to a report on Wednesday.
Twenty-two women reported being sexually exploited or abused, in acts including suspected rape or leading to unwanted pregnancies, by male aid workers responding to an Ebola crisis in eastern DR of Congo, The New Humanitarian (TNH) and the Thomson Reuters Foundation mentioned.
The men offered them jobs in exchange for sex, identifying themselves as working for large humanitarian organizations.
Three of the seven organizations cited are United Nations agencies, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is listed in 14 of the claims.
The allegations focus on Butembo, a major shopping town and an epicenter of the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak that claimed the lives of 2,200 people.
“A woman said she was raped by a man who claimed to be with the WHO, and journalists learned of three others who said they got pregnant,” investigators said.
“One of these women died after a botched abortion while trying to hide the pregnancy from her husband and children,” her sister said. “
The relentless fight to reverse the Ebola outbreak, the worst on record in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been marred by allegations of sexual abuse by well-paid aid workers who have flocked to the impoverished region.
An investigation last year by TNH, a news agency that covers humanitarian crises, gathered testimonies from 51 women who said they were victims of sexual exploitation in the nearby town of Beni.
The WHO, reacting to the latest accusations, said on Wednesday it had identified two women in Butembo as “having potentially engaged in sexual exploitation with individuals” linked to the agency.
This information will be shared with an independent commission of inquiry set up last October, he said.
“(The) WHO is committed to taking swift and decisive action, including working with national authorities responsible for criminal prosecution, in all cases where WHO staff may be found guilty of having committed (sexual exploitation and abuse), ”said agency spokesperson Marcia Poole. .
The new report says the sexual predators also claim to work for the United Nations International Organization for Migration; the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef; the International Rescue Committee (IRC); International Medical Corps (IMC); the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA); and the DRC Ministry of Health.
Most of the aid workers allegedly involved were Congolese, according to the report.
A spokeswoman for the independent commission said the panel intended to release the results of its investigation at the end of August.
© 2021 AFP