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Doctors Without Borders responds to sexual abuse allegations

Saturday, 23 June, 2018 - 15:27

The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Friday that “there is no evidence to tell us that there are proven facts,” following a BBC investigation of humanitarian workers who allegedly used prostitutes during missions.
In a statement, the organisation said that “MSF is not immune to these abuses, and we strive to take each case seriously.”

“Our organisation has reporting mechanisms to collect complaints about this type of abuse,” said the NGO, which does not envisage the opening of an investigation on the basis of testimony collected by the BBC, citing alack of “conclusive elements.”

“We have investigated, to the extent possible, every statement from the BBC, but the lack of detail has made the task extremely difficult. We have not been able to find evidence to support the allegations in the BBC report.”

MSF said it had tried to verify the allegation that an MSF employee had said that it was possible to exchange drugs for sexual favors, but failed to do so. “If it turned out that an MSF employee had tried to obtain sexual services for drug exchanges, this would be an unacceptable abuse of power,” writes the NGO, which has not identified any incidents supporting this allegation.

In the BBC article, three former employees accused aid workers in Kenya, Liberia and Central Africa of using prostitutes. According to the channel, these charges are against logistical staff, not doctors or nurses.

Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire an anonymous whistleblower said that a male colleague told her: “it’s so easy to barter medication with these easy girls in Liberia … He was suggesting lots of the young girls who had lost their parents to the Ebola crisis would do anything sexual in return for medication.”

Another woman claimed to have seen a senior member of staff bring girls back to MSF accommodation while posted in Kenya.

She said: “The girls were very, very young and rumoured to be prostitutes.”

The woman added: “My colleague, who was staying in the same residence for a long time, felt this was a regular occurrence.”

The whistleblower said she felt unable to challenge the man “because he was quite senior”, adding: “There’s definitely a feeling that certain predatory men were seen as too big to fail.”

In February, in the wake of the revelation of sex scandals within the NGO Oxfam, MSF, which employs more than 40,000 people worldwide, said it received, in 2017, 146 complaints or reports of discrimination, abuse of power or inappropriate behavior. Of these, 24 cases of harassment or sexual abuse were identified, resulting in 19 dismissals.


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