More than 80 aid workers including some employed by the World Health Organization (WHO) were involved in sexual abuse and exploitation during an Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an independent commission said on Tuesday, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The probe was prompted by an investigation last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian in which more than 50 women accused aid workers from the WHO and other charities of demanding sex in exchange for jobs between 2018-2020.
In its long-awaited report, the commission found that at least 21 of 83 suspected perpetrators were employed by the WHO, and that the abuses, which included nine allegations of rape, were committed by both national and international staff.
"The review team has established that the presumed victims were promised jobs in exchange for sexual relations or in order to keep their jobs," commission member Malick Coulibaly told a press briefing.
Many of the male perpetrators refused to use a condom and 29 of the women became pregnant and some were forced to later abort by their abusers, he added.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has pledged zero tolerance on sexual abuse and is said to be seeking a second term at the United Nations health body, said the report made "harrowing reading" and apologised to the victims.
"What happened to you should never happen to anyone. It is inexcusable. It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account," he said, promising further steps including "wholesale reform of our structures and culture".
Regional director Matshidiso Moeti said the health body was "humbled, horrified and heartbroken" by the findings. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesperson also apologised and thanked victims for their courage in testifying.