WHO 'heartbroken' by Congo sex abuse probe findings

The World Health Organization is "heartbroken", its regional director for Africa has said after an independent commission found that 21 out of 83 alleged perpetrators of sex abuse in Democratic Republic of Congo were employed by the WHO.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti was speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (September 28).

"We in WHO are indeed humbled, horrified, and heartbroken by the findings of this enquiry. I'd like also to thank all the women and girls who have come forward and given evidence to the investigation and thus have given us the basis on which to take action in WHO, which has been necessary."

The commission found that the abuse, including nine allegations of rape, were committed by both national and international staff.

The report said alleged victims were also "not provided with the necessary support and assistance required for such degrading experiences".

In an investigation published last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian, more than 50 women accused aid workers from the WHO and leading charities of demanding sex in exchange for jobs during the 2018-2020 Ebola crisis.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the commission's report made for "harrowing reading".

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what was done to you by people who were employed to WHO to serve and protect you. I'm sorry for the ongoing suffering that this event must cause. I'm sorry that you have had to relieve them in talking to the commission about your experiences."

Tedros said the organization will ban those identified as perpetrators from future employment with the WHO and would notify the broader U.N. system.

He said the WHO was terminating the contracts of four people identified as perpetrators, who were still employed by the agency when it was made aware of the allegations against them.