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Major donors urge WHO’s Tedros to behave shortly on Congo intercourse scandal

  • More than 80 assist employees tied to sexual abuse in Congo
  • Diplomats cite “management failure” however see Tedros re-election
  • Tedros pledges “zero tolerance” for sexual exploitation

GENEVA, Oct 1 (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization got here beneath U.S.-led stress from donors on Friday to behave shortly on a damning report on a sexual assault scandal that has engulfed it and different assist businesses within the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 80 assist employees, 1 / 4 of whom have been employed by the WHO, have been concerned in sexual abuse and exploitation throughout an Ebola epidemic in jap Congo, an unbiased fee mentioned on Tuesday. learn extra

The probe, launched by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was prompted by an investigation final yr by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian through which greater than 50 ladies accused assist employees from the WHO and different businesses of demanding intercourse in trade for jobs between 2018-2020.

The report – delayed by a month resulting from recent allegations and a widening investigation – was issued per week after the interval for nominating the following WHO director-general closed.

The donors urged swift motion in a joint assertion.

“We expect full commitment from the WHO to prevent and address such acts, including through fundamental reforms to the WHO,” the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva mentioned on behalf of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the European Union and its member states. learn extra

The international locations voiced assist for the WHO’s “immediate action to terminate the contracts of presumed perpetrators still in their employment” and for requiring others take administrative go away pending additional investigations.

“… we urge the WHO to initiate an immediate, thorough, and detailed assessment of the institutional policies, operational processes, leadership culture, and circumstances at WHO that allowed this to happen including for cases to go unreported to WHO’s leadership and member states,” the joint assertion added.

France had already urged Tedros to make good on his dedication to submit an motion plan addressing the inquiry’s suggestions inside 10 days.

The donors fund WHO’s operations worldwide, from combating the COVID-19 pandemic to routine programmes towards power ailments equivalent to diabetes and malnutrition.

Tedros, who visited Congo 14 instances through the Ebola epidemic, instructed a information convention on Tuesday that nobody had raised the allegations. He once more pledged “zero tolerance” for sexual exploitation and apologised to the victims however declined to say whether or not he was contemplating resigning.

He has gained huge assist for a second five-year time period, formally nominated by 17 EU members together with main donors Germany and France and backed by international locations in different areas, diplomats instructed Reuters on Sept. 23 because the deadline handed. The United States additionally backs him, they mentioned. learn extra

His native Ethiopia has not supported his re-election bid, resulting from friction over the Tigray battle. He remains to be anticipated to be re-elected within the wake of the scandal, diplomats mentioned.

Under WHO guidelines, the envelopes are to stay sealed till after Oct. 29, that means it’s attainable {that a} nation might need nominated one other candidate for the election in May.

Western diplomats have voiced concern on the WHO “management failure” through the sexual violence in Congo. Middle managers have been criticised however the high echelon together with Tedros has emerged with out being accused or straight linked, they added.

“The report is so bad. But it seems to clear him and senior management even by name,” a Western diplomat instructed Reuters. “Tedros really has to do his part and show leadership and take action as soon as possible.”

Another Western diplomat mentioned: “It makes for sobering reading, like a throwback to another era.” She added: “I have no reason to doubt Tedros is committed to dealing with it.”

A senior official in Kenya dismissed the notion that his authorities would withdraw its assist for Tedros’ re-nomination.

“Really? Isn’t that a little silly?” Macharia Kamau, principal secretary in Kenya’s international ministry, mentioned in a textual content message when requested if Kenya’s stance on Tedros had modified.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s state minister for international affairs, instructed Reuters that “Tedros is an African candidate” and that Uganda wouldn’t withdraw assist.

“The NGOs making these allegations are from Western countries. Some of whom may not want Tedros to be there. It might be a plot by some Western countries to deny Africa this position,” he mentioned.

“Tedros can not be held accountable for something that happened thousands of miles away in Congo.”

U.N. IMMUNITY?

The fee discovered that at the least 21 of 83 suspected perpetrators have been employed by the WHO, and that the abuses, which included 9 allegations of rape, have been dedicated by each nationwide and worldwide employees.

A spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) mentioned that it was in search of data on assist employees from businesses aside from WHO concerned within the abuse, however declined to specify whether or not its personal employees have been implicated.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to end sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector, to provide victims with assistance, and to hold perpetrators accountable,” he mentioned.

Congo’s well being minister, Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda, mentioned it was now for authorities to “hold account all the presumed authors of these reprehensible acts”.

A former senior U.N. official who labored in Congo through the Ebola disaster mentioned: “They should be fired, stripped of their U.N. immunity and handed over to the national prosecution authorities. They’ve committed crimes in that country and are subject to punishments of that country.”

“It’s an endemic problem in the U.N. so it’s not particular to the WHO, and so it’s not particular to Tedros.”

Most U.N. personnel take pleasure in practical immunity, which suggests they can’t be taken to courtroom for something they’ve performed as a part of their work. But the secretary-general has the facility to waive that immunity if it “would impede the course of justice”.

Activists mentioned that sexual abuse and harassment have been frequent in Congo and referred to as for reforms. There have been many incidents of alleged sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in a number of missions in Africa previously decade.

“… WHO and other U.N. institutions should now implement the report’s recommendations and take any step necessary to prevent such abuses from happening again, in DRC or elsewhere,” mentioned Jean-Mobert Senga, Congo researcher at Amnesty International.

Additional reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams

  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after a ceremony for the opening of the WHO Academy, in Lyon, France, September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo