The World Health Organization (WHO) has come under scrutiny following revelations that it paid $250 to victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo who suffered sexual abuse by its employees during the Ebola outbreak. These payments, revealed in internal documents, were also linked to mandatory training courses for the victims.
The issue, which represents one of the largest sex scandals in the UN health agency's history, involved over 100 local women abused by staffers and associates during the Ebola crisis, Euronews reported.
Dr. Gaya Gamhewage, leading the WHO's sexual abuse prevention efforts, visited Congo in March to address this crisis. During her visit, she encountered victims like a young mother whose child, born from abuse, required special medical treatment, further straining her finances.
The WHO's response involved financial aid of $250 each to at least 104 women, a sum that contrasts sharply with the daily expenses of UN officials in the region and barely covers four months of typical living expenses in Congo. Furthermore, this assistance required the women to complete training for starting income-generating activities, a condition that has raised ethical questions.
Despite these efforts, many victims remain uncompensated. Approximately a third of the known victims were untraceable, and some declined the WHO's offer. The total sum provided, $26,000, is a fraction of the WHO's $2 million survivor assistance fund for sexual misconduct victims, primarily in Congo.
Recipients interviewed by the Associated Press expressed that the compensation was insufficient and emphasized their desire for justice. Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue campaign, criticized the WHO's approach, calling the blending of seed money with compensation for sexual abuse "perverse" and inappropriate.
The WHO's criteria for determining the support package considered local food costs and guidelines to avoid exposing recipients to further harm by dispensing excessive cash. However, the agency's approach has been met with skepticism. Dr. Gamhewage acknowledged the inadequacy of the response and expressed the WHO's intention to seek direct input from survivors for further support.
In addition to financial aid, the WHO has also covered medical expenses for 17 children born from sexual exploitation and abuse. One woman, impregnated by a WHO doctor, received a land plot and health care in a compensation deal, along with a monthly payment until the baby's birth, intended to preserve the WHO's reputation.
Despite these measures, other victims assert that the WHO's response has been insufficient, underscoring a continuing struggle for adequate support and justice in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal.