Women in Global Health in partnership with FEMNET and ARSF has brought together 120+ NGOs

Open letter to the World Health Organization to act now to prevent and eliminate all forms of sexual violence and harassment 

10 December, 2021

On Human Rights Day and on the last day of the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Women in Global Health in partnership with Actions pour la Réinsertion sociale de la Femme, FEMNET, and more than 140+ civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe have sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO). Calling for them to act now to prevent and eliminate all forms of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (SEAH) in health. In the letter we detail recommendaitons for follow-up to the SEAH incidents that occured during the tenth Ebola response in Democratic Republic of Congo. 

We wish to express our deep concern at the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls by WHO staff during the tenth Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  detailed in the report by the Independent Commission. We stand with survivors of SEAH and whistleblowers in their pursuit of justice and the truth, and we call on WHO to act now to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

Allegations of SEAH in the tenth Ebola Response in DRC were made against staff of several UN and international aid agencies, in addition to WHO, highlighting the need for a sector wide approach. Given its global mandate to advocate for health as a human right and health equity, WHO must play a leadership role in preventing and eliminating SEAH within the health sector.

The Letter has been translated into 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, & Chinese.

We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse everywhere, the majority of whom are women and girls. This letter has been signed by 140+ CSOs from all regions, the majority being from the Global South. Women from the Global South are often cast as victims or collateral damage in humanitarian emergencies. They are, however, a critical part of the solution and their voices must be central in the dialogue on ending sexual exploitation and abuse in the health sector and all sectors.

We will keep the letter open for more signatures until the WHO's Executive Board Meeting 24-27 January 2022, when we will revisit the issue. Please share the Letter with any NGOs who might want to add their signatures.

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