The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is deeply troubled to learn of the sexual abuse perpetrated by World Health Organization (WHO) workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during the Ebola response mission from 2018-2020. There is no excuse for such abuse of power, in which “women and girls had been promised jobs in exchange for relationships or had been sexually exploited in order to keep jobs,” as the investigating commission reported.
ICRW applauds WHO’s own Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for establishing the commission, for his apology to the survivors of the abuse, and for his commitment to reform and accountability.
Words matter. Actions matter more. Unfortunately, these instances are far too common, and organizations like WHO must do better to follow through on commitments, become an example for others, and set in motion the structural changes needed to bring an end to these ongoing and repeated injustices. Women, girls, and marginalized people everywhere who survive these abuses – whether during a crisis or not – deserve to be heard, believed, and assured of justice. And we must all do better to disrupt the power hierarchies and mentality that allow such abhorrent behavior.
ICRW stands with the women and girls who were exploited and abused, and we look forward to seeing WHO’s progress towards fulfilling its promises.
- Final Report of the Independent Commission on the review of sexual abuse and exploitation during the response to the 10th Ebola virus disease epidemic in DRC
- WHO Director-General’s remarks, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
- Remarks by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti
- WHO employees took part in Congo sex abuse during Ebola crisis, report says