Several nations asking WHO by issued a warning on Friday when it was reported that World Health Organization leaders had become aware of and failed to report allegations of sexual assault against UN agency staff. An internal email revealed management was aware of sexual assault in DRC in 2019. Also early studies showed that 50 women accused Ebola workers, especially from WHO.
United States, European Union, Britain and Japan, have issued a joint statement. They are calling on WHO leaders to provide “strong and exemplary guidelines” for preventing sexual violence. Further, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland and Uruguay said that adequate resolution of the problem requires cultural change. Canadian Ambassador delivered a statement to the WHO General Assembly that the tone has to be “set from above”. And that signatories wanted a “credible outcome” to address the problem.
They are stressing that they want “appropriate disciplinary action” when accusations needed. Washington wants quarterly updates and real going progress. So that accountability and recovery can begin”. Also Britain has made it clear that the flow of funding is supported by “zero tolerance for ignoring, concealing or deliberately persecuting accusations.”
They are concerned by media reports that WHO management has become aware of reports of cases of sexual exploitation and harassment. These have not reported under United Nations and WHO protocols.
WHO chief responded to all concerned nations
According to media reports, WHO chief acknowledged the case in Democratic Republic of Congo. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the meeting that the organization was “deeply concerned about these allegations. All forms of violence are totally incompatible with the WHO mission”. Moreover, he said, “We take these allegations very seriously. Addressing them and correcting them is very important to us. We are also determined to address major systemic problems and take necessary action”. Tedros is serving a second five-year term at the WHO. He is aware that some member states were disappointed. These nations asking WHO to speed up the procedure.
The WHO has to set up its own system last September after a year-long investigation by the private agencies. That documented alleged exploitation and abuse of women in 2018-2020 Ebola crisis.
An inquiry in DRC issued a call for proposals, saying that any information provided will be kept confidential. The parallels between the stories of women in the eastern city of Beni in DRC suggest that the practice is widespread.
The WHO announced in October that it will form an independent seven-member commission. The commission will led by former Nigerian minister to investigate facts, find victims and bring perpetrators to justice. The commission must present its report by the end of August.
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