Last year, our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation uncovered allegations of extensive sexual exploitation and abuse during the 2018-2020 Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was far from the first time we had reported on this widespread, chronic problem – whether at the hands of aid workers or UN peacekeepers.
From Bosnia to Haiti to Central African Republic, such abuses have long stained the reputation of the UN and international NGOs, undermining basic trust in the institutions meant to protect and assist people in crisis. The crux of the issue often comes down to imbalances of power – and the power relations between those providing the aid and those receiving it could not be more stark in humanitarian relief.
Beginning in the 1990s, this timeline exposes a long cycle of impunity: grave abuses followed by statements of shock and outrage, then belated efforts to stem the problem before another revelation of abuse, either in the same country or in a different part of the world.
Timeline: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, ‘a cancer in our system’
*A photo was removed at the request of the individual shown in the image to avoid any suggestion that person was involved in sexual assault and exploitation claims or policies, 12 February 2021.
With additional research support from Izzy Ellis.
We uncovered the sex abuse scandal that rocked the WHO, but there’s more to do
We just covered a report that says the World Health Organization failed to prevent and tackle widespread sexual abuse during the Ebola response in Congo.
Our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation triggered this probe, demonstrating the impact our journalism can have.
But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking.
We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.
The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and do more of this.