In the wake of a report detailing alleged sexual misconduct by workers for the World Health Organization during missions to the Congo, the European Union has suspended funding for WHO programs in the African nation.
According to Reuters, which obtained a letter from the European Commission (EC) to the WHO detailing the suspension of funding, the commission “informed the WHO of the immediate suspension of financing for five WHO programmes, including its Ebola and COVID-19 operations.”
Just over $24 million will be cut from the organization’s activities in the Congo as the EC asks for greater accountability and for guard rails to be put in place.
In an email to Reuters, the EC said they wanted “robust safeguards to prevent such unacceptable incidents as well as to act decisively in such situations” for those with whom they work.
However, the EC noted that it would still be giving funding to WHO programs and operations in other countries.
Several of the measures sought by the EC include mandating background checks for WHO employees, compensation for the victims of the alleged sexual misconduct, and examination of WHO management over the incidents “for the negligence in the treatment of allegations and evidence.”
“The Commission has temporarily suspended the payments and will refrain from awarding new funding related to the humanitarian activities undertaken by WHO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This measure does not affect EU funding for WHO operations elsewhere,” it explained.
The group noted that it has “extreme concern” about the “magnitude of the findings” of a report released last month that implicated 21 WHO workers in alleged sexual misconduct during a mission to the Congo from 2018-2020.
In light of this suspension of funding, the WHO will have 30 days to respond, after which the European Commission will decide within 30 days whether or not to maintain the suspension.
As reported by The Daily Wire, a report from last month implicated roughly 80 aid workers (21 who worked for WHO) in a variety of sexual misconduct, including alleged rapes and forced abortions.
One woman named in the report, Lisianne, recounted becoming pregnant after an expatriate WHO doctor allegedly pressured her into having sex with him so she could keep her job. He reportedly gave her abortion pills when he found out she was pregnant.
“This is the biggest finding of sexual abuse perpetrated during a single U.N. initiative in one area or one country during the time-bound period of a U.N. response effort,” said Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue, an organization dedicated to cracking down on sexual abuse by U.N. personnel.
Donovan was not impressed when the WHO announced earlier this month that it would be referring the alleged misconduct cases back to U.N. personnel in New York, as well as national authorities in the Congo.
“This is a giant step backward. The WHO is treating dozens of violent crimes alleged against its own personnel and top officials as simple breaches of UN rules. If governments allow the UN to get away with this, it will be a solid victory for UN impunity,” she said.