The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) on Thursday announced the appointments of Aïchatou Mindaoudou and Julienne Lusenge as co-chairs of an Independent Commission on sexual abuse and exploitation during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mindaoudou, a Nigerien, is a former minister of foreign affairs and of social development and has held senior United Nations posts in Côte d’Ivoire and in Darfur.
Lusenge, who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is an internationally recognized human rights activist and advocate for survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
“The role of the Independent Commission will be to swiftly establish the facts, identify and support survivors, ensure that any ongoing abuse has stopped, and hold perpetrators to account,” the W.H.O. said in a statement.
The Commission was formed following a report alleging that more than 50 women had accused aid workers from the organistion and leading charities of sexual exploitation and abuse during the fight against the 10th Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ordered an urgent investigation into the allegations adding that anyone who was found to be involved will face serious consequences, including an immediate dismissal.
In the wake of the allegations, the W.H.O. also instituted broader protection issues in health emergency response settings.
The Commission will consist of a maximum of seven members, including the co-chairs, with expertise in sexual exploitation and abuse, emergency response, and investigations.
The co-chairs will select the other members of the Commission, which will be supported by a Secretariat based at the W.H.O., the statement added.
“To support the Independent Commission’s work, the Director-General has decided to use an open process to hire an independent and external organization with experience in conducting similar inquiries.”
The global health organisation has stressed that it has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse. It also reiterated its strong commitment to preventing and protecting against sexual exploitation and abuse in all our operations around the world.