Salem Radio Network News Saturday, May 21, 2022

World

Rising sexual abuse allegations at WHO show reforms are working, chief says

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Friday that there has been an increase in allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment (SEAH) within the agency, a sign that its reform strategy is working.

“We are now seeing an increase in reported allegations of SEAH,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the WHO’s Executive Board. “This is an indication that the system is beginning to work better and that victims and bystanders are more willing to raise an alarm.”

Tedros said that it was currently investigating 12 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation and 25 allegations of harassment, without giving a comparison.

The new reports follow the start of a reform programme at the U.N. health agency in the wake of a report by an independent commission last year. It found that 83 aid workers, a quarter of them employed by the WHO, were involved in sexual coercion and abuse during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 10th Ebola epidemic.

In the past two weeks, three new complaints have been received from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Republic of Congo, Tedros told the board.

Later on Friday, a group of more than 50 countries urged the WHO to take further action to strengthen its approach to such cases and called for “sustained senior management engagement” on the matter, with regular updates for donors.

Such incidents “deeply undermine the important work being carried out by WHO, and must be addressed both in its work in communities as well as within the organisation itself,” said British Ambassador to the WHO Simon Manley.

The U.S. envoy, Bathsheba Nell Crocker, called for “broader organisational reforms” and made specific proposals such as consequences for perpetrators and managers who fail to respond effectively.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie)

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