Aid Workers Accused of Sex Abuse

More than 50 women say they suffered sexual abuse by aid workers during Congo’s Ebola crisis, a joint investigation by The New Humanitarian and Thomson Reuters Foundation reveals.

The women were “plied with drinks … ambushed in offices and hospitals … locked in rooms by men who promised jobs or threatened to fire them if they did not comply.” Exploitation so common, it was like a “passport to employment,” one said.

Most of the claims were against men allegedly working for the WHO; others were against men claiming to work for Congo’s Ministry of Health, UNICEF, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, World Vision, ALIMA, and the IOM.

One drivers who ferried men and women back the stories. “The majority of us chauffeurs drove men or their victims to and from hotels for sexual arrangements like this. It was so regular, it was like buying food at the supermarket,” said one.

Most of the agencies said they didn’t receive any abuse reports—but women said they didn’t know how to file complaints; they also cited shame and fear of reprisals or losing their jobs. “The fear of retribution is so high,” Alina Potts, of the Global Women's Institute at George Washington University, tells Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The WHO said it is “outraged,” and pledged to investigate the allegations.

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