The World Health Organization has appointed a new official to address the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, following revelations that staffers allegedly traded jobs for sex during a deployment to Congo to fight an Ebola outbreak, the U.N. agency said Friday.
Dr. Gaya Gamhewage, a 20-year WHO veteran, will seek to streamline and improve internal efforts to fight sexual misconduct. The issue has particular implications for an agency whose job is to protect the health of the world’s most vulnerable people.
WHO spokeswoman Marcia Poole confirmed the appointment of Gamhewage, who has years of expertise in health emergencies and has voiced her concerns about sexual exploitation and abuse. The appointment took effect Thursday, and she reports to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Dr. Gamhewage will work with the accountability departments to strengthen and speed up their work, but she will not have a role in disciplinary actions,” Poole said in an e-mail.
Western diplomats and non-governmental groups have expressed concerns about the way WHO management has responded to news reports that first emerged in October 2020 about sexual abuse involving humanitarian staff in Congo battling an Ebola outbreak that erupted in 2018.