Donors, diplomats express concerns over WHO's handling of sex abuse allegations

Donors, diplomats express concerns over WHO's handling of sex abuse allegations
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Donors and diplomats are speaking out against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) handling of sex abuse allegations against its doctors.

“The U.K. has a zero tolerance approach when it comes to sexual exploitation and harassment — and that extends to all international organizations that we fund,” Simon Manley, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations and WHO in Geneva, told The Associated Press.

“We are speaking with WHO and other major donors as a matter of urgency to establish the facts,” Manley added.

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The U.S. is the WHO’s biggest donor, followed by Britain.

The concerns arose after an investigation done by the AP showed at least two WHO doctors faced sex abuse allegations in 2018 during the Ebola outbreak in Congo.

Jean-Paul Ngandu, a doctor for the organization, and a young woman allegedly reached an agreement for him to cover pregnancy costs, send her money and buy her land.

Ngandu claimed the contract, which the AP says two WHO staffers approved and signed, was to “protect the integrity and reputation of the organization."

Another WHO doctor, Boubacar Diallo, is accused of both sexual harassment and bragging about it to Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

Three women also told the AP that Diallo offered them jobs at the WHO if they had sex with him. Diallo denies these allegations.

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“As soon as the allegations relating to the response to the 10th Ebola outbreak in DRC emerged, WHO began taking comprehensive action. Last October, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros established an independent commission to investigate the allegations,” according to the WHO.

The commission is currently investigating the accusations and will “make recommendations to ensure survivors are supported, perpetrators are held accountable, and crucially, measures are put in place or reinforced to prevent SEA from happening in future operations.”

The World Bank said in a statement to The Hill that as a "direct response to the allegations" it has "paused negotiations with the Congolese authorities for new financing to the World Health Organization and UN agencies."

The State Department is requesting additional information regarding the allegations and is looking to investigate in order to hold those who are responsible accountable, a spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

“Our role as a funder is to hold organizations that receive grants from the foundation to the highest standards of transparency and accountability, and to insist that they take steps to prevent misconduct in the future,” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the group’s third-biggest donor, told The Hill.

Balazs Ujvari, a spokesman for the European Commission, told the AP that it would be watching their investigation closely and could review or suspend funds “for any partner who is not living up to the required high ethical and professional rules and standards.”

—Updated on May 18 at 10:55 a.m.