Best of AP — Honorable Mention


AP: WHO knew of sex misconduct by personnel in Congo


London-based health and science reporter Maria Cheng and Congo stringer Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro revealed that, contrary to World Health Organization claims, WHO senior management did know about at least two cases of doctors accused of sex abuse and misconduct during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but did not fire or even apparently discipline them.

Cheng advanced the story by obtaining names for the first time, including those of the two doctors and of the senior manager at WHO who received the complaints against them. She discovered that WHO managers even witnessed an agreement in which a WHO doctor accused of misconduct agreed to pay a young woman he had allegedly impregnated.

While Cheng worked with her sources,stringer Kudra Maliro went to the neighborhood where the abuse happened and managed to track down several alleged victims of both doctors,adding text and images. The investigation was based on interviews with dozens of WHO staffers,Ebola officials in Congo,private emails, legal documents and recordings of internal meetings obtained by the AP.

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Anifa holds her phone displaying a photo of former World Health Organization doctor Boubacar Diallo of Canada, during an interview in the eastern Congo town of Goma, March 5, 2021. In 2019, Diallo met her when she was working in an Ebola treatment center in eastern Congo. She said Diallo told her: “How can a beautiful girl like you work here, testing people’s temperatures and washing their hands? That’s terrible.” She said he offered her another job at five times more than her current salary where “the conditions were very simple,” according to him. She rejected Diallo’s offer, saying that “if he hires me after sleeping with him … I would be a sex slave, not a WHO employee.” Diallo rejected those claims outright. – AP Photo / Kudra Maliro

The story drew strong and immediate international response. British,European and American diplomats,as well as donors,voiced serious concerns about how WHO handled the sex abuse allegations,and some public health experts called for WHO to explain what its top leadership knew. Paula Donovan,co-director of a group that tracks sex abuse, wrote: “Never … have I seen such a detailed exposé containing so many unanswerable indictments against so many UN personnel. You’ve broken real ground here.”

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