The World Health Organization (WHO) paid $250 in reparations to dozens of women in the Congo who were sexually abused by some of the organization’s officials working in the region during an Ebola outbreak, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Over 100 women, including a child, were sexually assaulted by roughly a dozen of the U.N. health agency’s officials and 62 other perpetrators from 2018 to 2020, according to the AP. The $250 that was paid out to the victims is less than one day’s worth of expenses for some U.N. officials working in the region and approximately 1% of WHO’s survivor assistance fund for sexual assault victims, primarily in the Congo.

The money came with a caveat that the victims complete training courses so they could start “income-generating activities,” but many of them have not received any payments, according to the AP. Paula Donovan, co-director of Code Blue’s campaign to hold the U.N. accountable for sexual misconduct, called the payments “perverse.”

“It’s not unheard of for the UN to give people seed money so they can boost their livelihoods, but to mesh that with compensation for a sexual assault, or a crime that results in the birth of a baby, is unthinkable,” Donovan told the AP.

Over a dozen children were born as a result of the assaults, according to the AP. One woman gave birth to a child with “a malformation that required special medical treatment,” which required additional costs.

WHO management was made aware of the scandal as it was happening in real-time, but took hardly any measures to stop it, according to the AP. No senior officials who were aware of the scandal were fired.

Many of the victims feel WHO hasn’t done enough to hold the abusers accountable and have grown distrustful of the organization’s efforts in the Congo, according to the AP.

“I can’t put my trust in (WHO) anymore,” one woman who was impregnated as a result of the abuse told the AP. “When they abandon you in such difficulties and leave you without doing anything, it’s irresponsible.”

WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jake Smith on November 14, 2023
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