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WHO ‘Should Pay Reparations To Victims Of Sexual Abuse By Staff’

sexual abuse

WHO ‘should pay reparations to victims of sexual abuse by staff’

Survivors of sexual abuse by World Health Organization aid workers during the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ebola outbreak in 2018 should receive “substantive” reparations, the co-chair of an independent inquiry into the scandal has said.

Julienne Lusenge, a prominent Congolese human rights activist, said it was “essential” that the UN’s global health body drew up a workable plan for reparations to respond to the “real needs” of women and girls who became victims of abuse.

“The issue of reparations is very, very important,” said Lusenge, executive director of the Fund for Congolese Women. “Babies were born; women were left unwell. So we think it’s important to have a holistic programme in which the alleged victims themselves will be the stakeholders.”

In a damning report published this week, the independent commission found 21 of the alleged perpetrators of serious abuses, including a number of rape allegations, were employed by the WHO. The scandal led to 29 pregnancies, with some women later being forced to have abortions by their abusers, the inquiry found.

In total, the commission interviewed 75 alleged victims aged 13 to 43. The youngest survivor recalled being offered a lift home by a WHO driver in the small town of Mangina in North Kivu. She said that instead of taking her home, the man raped her. She became pregnant and had a child, the report noted.

Lusenge and her fellow commission members called on the WHO to draw up a plan for making reparations to the survivors once the investigation had been completed. Many victims, they noted, had complained of receiving no help and being “left to deal with the physical and moral consequences” of the abuse on their own.

“So we are now waiting for the WHO to … provide substantive reparations,” Lusenge told the Guardian on Thursday.

“We think it’s important that a strong message be sent to all those who might one day embark on humanitarian programmes and abuse and exploit girls and women. For us, this is essential. We must make sure this reparations programme is properly drawn up and responds to the real needs of the victims.”

The report said some of the victims had suffered trauma as a result of the abuse, with some of the men administering abortion pills or injections to girls and women they had impregnated. Other victims had seen their financial insecurity worsen as a result of the abuse and exploitation. Two said that, after their pregnancies became public, they had been forced to stop their studies.

On Tuesday, as the report was released, the WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, vowed that there would be “zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, and zero tolerance for inaction against it”.

He said four people who were still employed by the WHO when it was made aware of the allegations had had their contracts terminated. Two other employees have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their handling of complaints. Apologising to the victims and survivors, Tedros said the WHO’s “central concern” now was providing them with “services and support”.

However, Dr Gaya Gamhewage, the WHO’s director of prevention and response to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, appeared to rule out formal reparations.

A person is vaccinated against Ebola in Beni in Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2019.
‘Humbled and heartbroken’: WHO finds its Ebola staff abused women and girls
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“We acknowledge that we need funds easily available on the ground for victim and survivor support. That’s very clear,” she said. “However, there is no provision in the UN system for financial reparations to the victims.”

Marcia Poole, a WHO spokesperson, said the body was working with UN partners to ensure that “all victims and survivors” were provided with support in accordance with the UN protocol on assisting victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, including medical and psychological support.

She said: “Some are receiving support through the UN system for the education of children born out of [sexual exploitation and abuse] as well as livelihood support, such as dressmaking, livestock farming and basket-making, so that they can sustain their families.

“We need to work with others to make sure such support is predictable, effective and provided at scale, as needed.”

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Group hails IG as mother accused Hospital of stealing Placenta

The Inspector General of Police, (IG) Kayode Egbetokun has received praises for the prompt arrest of suspects accused of stealing the placenta of a new born baby in privated hospital located in Kwara State. The suspects were taken from Ilofa to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday.
In a statement signed by NHRC’s official, Mr Taiwo Adeleye said the arrest of the suspects was an important step towards securing justice for the families of Mr Rotimi Williams whose wife accused health officials at a private hospital of stealing the placenta of her new born baby.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC),a coalition of 130 civil society groups spread across Nigeria on Thursday expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects by the police.
The group said it was aware of plots by some powerful individuals to clog the wheel of justice but was delighted that the IG has brought hope to the despairing family. It called for full investigation that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of all culprits.
Few days ago, Mrs Williams accused the management of Cottage hospital, Ilofa, Kwara State of failing to account for the placenta of her new born baby. In complaints lodged with the NHRC, Mrs Williams said a nurse, Mrs Alabi took the delivery, one nurse Adeloye cleaned up the baby while one Mrs Toyin, a ward attendant claimed she mistakenly threw away the placenta.
“In Nigerian agelong tradition, the placenta is linked to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of a new born baby. There is a customary and agelong way of burying placenta of which every medical staff is aware.The disappearance of a baby’s placenta is a source of eternal trauma for the parents and a prelude to impugn the future of the child based on timeless tradition and beliefs,” the NHRC said.
The Coalition said the placenta could be stolen for rituals, adding that stealing a placenta is like killing the child or using the child for ritual by other means The group said it would follow-up the case “day and night” to ensure justice is done. The NHRC said Mrs Toyin brought out the mother’s bags from the labour room but failed to take the placenta along.
The rights group said one Mrs Ayoni Awolusi in the course of the delivery, claimed she was to be on duty but was absent. The medical personnel expected to be on dury was Dr. Ajibola. NHRC said Mrs Williams put to bed around 7pm on Sunday May 12 but discovered the missing placenta very early on Monday 13th, May.
The group called on the IG to intensify the probe and ensure every one connected with the gory episode is brought to justice

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AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccines from market as demand reduces

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was withdrawing Covid vaccine Vaxzevria, one of the first produced in the deadly pandemic, citing “commercial reasons” following a slump in demand.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson added in a statement.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca rapidly developed the successful Covid-19 jab during the coronavirus pandemic which erupted in the first half of 2020.

Vaxzevria, developed alongside Oxford University, was at first offered at cost but Astra decided in late 2021 to sell it for profit.

But the world pivoted towards mRNA vaccines, particularly the one produced by US drugs giant Pfizer and German peer BioNTech, after rare blood-clot problems with Astra’s jab increased public hesitancy about taking it.

Sales collapsed further as global Covid restrictions were fully lifted worldwide and the world emerged from the global health crisis.

The AstraZeneca spokesperson said the group had begun the process from taking it off the market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) region.

The company will work with other regulators globally to start market authorisation withdrawals for the Vaxzevria “where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected”.

The spokesperson said that, according to independent estimates, “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone” and more than three billion doses were supplied globally.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. ”

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NMA lauds Police for arresting fake doctor in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has commended the Nigerian Police Force for arresting an alleged fake medical doctor.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman, NMA Lagos, said the arrest will strengthen the association’s fight against quackery in the medical profession.

Olowojebutu explained that medical quackery was a dangerous practice that posed a threat to the well-being of citizens and the delivery of quality healthcare in the state, and country.

“The arrest is a welcome development for the health sector; we would expose these quacks and ensure that Lagos does not suffer further morbidity and mortality from their nefarious activities.

“We are glad that our work on anti-quackery has started yielding progress as we are determined to weed out quacks from the medical profession,” he said.

The chairman pledged that NMA Lagos, with the support of the Ministry of Health, Health Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, and police, would eradicate quacks from the state.

According to him, the association would hold an anti-quackery summit soon, after which it would present a white paper to the Lagos State Government on anti-quackery.

Olowojebutu warned hospitals to refrain from employing staff whose certificates and licences had not been verified by the MDCN to safeguard the health of the populace.

The 37-year-old medical practitioner with suspected forged certificates was arrested by police at Skylink Medical Centre, Elepe-Ikorodu.

The police said they arrested the suspect, who claimed to be the managing director of the health facility, based on intelligence gathered by the command through members of the Elepe community concerning the activities of the suspect.

The police recovered two suspected forged certificates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, after searching for the facility.

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