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WHO appoints official to assist forestall sexual abuse by employees

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GENEVA (AP) — The World Well being Group has appointed a brand new official to handle the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, following revelations that staffers allegedly traded jobs for intercourse throughout a deployment to Congo to combat an Ebola outbreak, the U.N. company stated Friday.

Dr. Gaya Gamhewage, a 20-year WHO veteran, will search to streamline and enhance inner efforts to combat sexual misconduct. The difficulty has explicit implications for an company whose job is to guard the well being of the world’s most susceptible individuals.

WHO spokeswoman Marcia Poole confirmed the appointment of Gamhewage, who has years of experience in well being emergencies and has voiced her issues about sexual exploitation and abuse. The appointment took impact Thursday, and she or he reviews to WHO Director-Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Dr. Gamhewage will work with the accountability departments to strengthen and velocity up their work, however she is not going to have a task in disciplinary actions,” Poole stated in an e-mail.

Western diplomats and non-governmental teams have expressed issues about the best way WHO administration has responded to news reviews that first emerged in October 2020 about sexual abuse involving humanitarian employees in Congo battling an Ebola outbreak that erupted in 2018.

In Could, the AP printed an investigation documenting that senior WHO administration was knowledgeable of a number of intercourse abuse allegations involving at the least two of the company’s medical doctors in the course of the epidemic.

Tedros was pictured in a photograph on the WHO’s web site with one of many medical doctors accused of sexual harassment and misconduct and a senior staffer who obtained emailed complaints in regards to the alleged abuse. The WHO chief referenced the physician in a speech that he made to a committee of the WHO’s decision-making physique.

Shortly after an preliminary news report emerged about wider abuses within the humanitarian sector in 2020, Tedros appointed an unbiased fee to analyze the matter. It’s anticipated to challenge its findings in August.

He acknowledged earlier this yr that the WHO’s response to intercourse abuse allegations had been “gradual,” and greater than 50 nations have requested the company to be extra clear about how such instances are dealt with.

Gamhewage, who just lately was head of WHO’s studying and capability growth, has been outspoken in regards to the challenge. In an inner dialogue on intercourse abuse, she stated the “impunity with which we’ve operated is resulting in this.”

In audio recordings obtained by The Related Press from a WHO city corridor assembly in November, she decried a “tradition that enables ladies to be handled on this approach not simply by armed militants but additionally by our personal colleagues.” That was an obvious reference to armed teams in northeast Congo whose violence hindered the response of WHO and different support teams in opposition to the Ebola outbreak that started in 2018.

“I really need us to be brave sufficient to begin making modifications earlier than this investigation is over, beginning with our office and going all the best way to the sector,” she stated, alluding to the investigation ordered by Tedros in October. “Coaching shouldn’t be going to resolve this downside.”

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