WHO staff tell directors that they must address “systemic” failures that have led to allegations of sex abuse in Congo.
The World Health Organization’s top executives have admitted that the organization’s response to sexual abuse charges involving staff who worked in Congo during the Ebola outbreak was “slow.”
According to an Associated Press investigation, high WHO management was aware of many examples of malfeasance.
As WHO leaders met this week, Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency chief, stated, “In many ways, we’re all to fault for what happens in these situations.”
WHO employees have sought quick action from upper management in response to the charges and suggestions that “high management may have suppressed concerns.”
In an email to staff and top management last week, the WHO staff committee stated, “We cannot afford to ignore signals of recurring, systemic failure of our Organization to avoid such alleged practices and to handle them in a just and timely manner.”
See the list below for more Associated Press reporting.
Countries were debating how to improve the United Nations’ health agency’s emergency program after its errors in reacting to the coronavirus pandemic as WHO’s highest decision-making body met this week. The World Health Assembly did not dedicate a dedicated agenda item to the alleged wrongdoing in Congo, but it did include a roundtable discussion on sexual abuse prevention on Friday.
Behind closed doors, diplomats pressured WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the problem. Last week, at least six countries expressed worry about the agency’s handling of sexual abuse and exploitation, based on recent journalistic stories. Tedros attempted to assuage their fears.
On May 19, he told a committee meeting of WHO’s Executive Board, “I can understand the frustration.” According to an AP audio of the meeting, the director-general stated that dealing with security issues in Congo, establishing a commission to investigate sex abuse allegations, and getting the group up and operating takes time.
“Even if it was slow, the way this thing was run up until now…
Tedros stated, “I hope it will satisfy.”
The WHO’s press office declined to comment on Tedros’ claim of a tardy reaction, but stated that the commission was “dedicated to completing a complete inquiry into all recent claims, including those relating to management activities.” WHO required the group’s co-chairs to sign a confidentiality agreement.
The WHO-commissioned panel does not include any legislation. This is a condensed version of the information.