TIMES.KY

Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

WHO Head in Middle East ‘Disturbed’ by Abuse Report

WHO Head in Middle East ‘Disturbed’ by Abuse Report

The head of the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean region told staff in an internal email that he is “very disturbed” by allegations reported by the Associated Press last week that the UN health agency’s Syria director misspent millions, abused staff and violated the organization’s own COVID-19 protocols as the pandemic swept across the war-torn country.
In a message sent to all staff in the Middle East on Friday, Dr. Ahmed Salim Al-Mandhari said “the allegations negatively impact the people of Syria, whom we strive to serve.”

This week, two members of WHO’s ethics department in Geneva, including its director, are visiting the agency’s Eastern Mediterranean headquarters in Cairo, which oversees Syria.

“The purpose of the visit is to advance awareness through various sessions, on the ethical conduct, principles, values and expectations,” staff were told in an internal email sent on behalf of WHO’s director of business operations in Cairo.

The AP on Thursday published an investigation based on more than 100 confidential UN emails, documents and other materials showing that WHO staffers told investigators the agency’s Syria representative, Dr. Akjemal Magtymova, engaged in abusive behavior, pressured WHO staff to sign contracts with high-ranking Syrian government politicians and plied government officials with gifts. Magtymova declined to comment and called the allegations “defamatory.”

The misconduct claims from more than a dozen WHO staffers have triggered one of the biggest internal probes in years, involving more than 20 investigators.

“As the investigation continues, we have already taken mitigating action,” Al-Mandhari said in his message to staff, referring to the decision to name an acting Syria representative in May. “We also proactively informed our donor partners of the ongoing investigation.” Still, Magtymova remains in her position and continues to draw a director-level salary.

Karam Shaar, a Syria expert at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said that although there have been rumors of UN corruption in Syria for years, the AP report showed that “they are more extreme than we ever thought.”

“What reportedly happened at the WHO Syria office is particularly egregious because at this point in time, Syrians have never been more vulnerable,” Shaar said. “It’s exactly at this time that WHO should be responsible, yet we have never heard as serious allegations from any other UN agency. The charges against WHO are by far the worst.”

Syria’s health system has been devastated by more than a decade of war, and for years the country has relied almost exclusively on humanitarian aid. Nearly 90% of the population lives in poverty and more than 7 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

Adam Kamradt-Scott, a professor specializing in global health at the European University Institute in Italy, said that because WHO’s funds come from taxpayers, the agency must prove its spending is warranted.

Financial documents obtained by the AP showed, among other examples, that WHO’s Magtymova once spent more than $11,000 of WHO funds on a party mostly to honor her own achievements during COVID-19. Numerous WHO staffers also alleged that Magtymova used WHO funds to buy inappropriate gifts for Syrian government officials, including gold coins and expensive cars.

“If it were any other context than the UN and there was a misappropriation of funds, you would likely see employees being held criminally responsible,” Kamradt-Scott said. “But we still have a situation where WHO staff are essentially investigating other WHO staff, which is not exactly the best approach.”

In his email to WHO staffers in the Eastern Mediterranean, regional director Al-Mandhari encouraged officials to report suspected misconduct through WHO’s own “integrity hotline.”

Eight WHO personnel who complained internally about Magtymova’s reported misconduct as early as last year told the AP their concerns have yet to be addressed.

One former Syrian staffer wrote to the WHO chief earlier this month, pleading for help after earlier emails went unanswered.

“I would like to inquire about the next step regarding the damages due to stress caused by workplace and the potential loss of employment as a result of harassment,” wrote the former employee, who asked for $35,000 in compensation. “Your support and feedback in this regard is essential to save the image of WHO in my beloved country, Syria.”

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has not responded, despite insisting in the past that WHO has “zero tolerance” for misconduct.

According to WHO figures, there are more than 250 ongoing internal investigations involving abusive behavior or sexual exploitation and harassment.

Sheba Crocker, the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the US was in contact with WHO and was closely following its internal probe in Syria, where it is a major UN donor.

“Responsible leadership as well as stewardship of member state resources must always be a requirement for leadership positions in international organizations,” Crocker said in a statement.

Natasha Hall, a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there were structural failures that consistently allowed for UN abuses to occur.

“The knee-jerk reaction in the UN is to just cover up these violations and hope they go away,” she said, comparing the UN response in Syria to the Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse of children. “Unless donor governments collectively push back on this, it’s likely we will keep hearing about these kinds of abuses.”
Newsletter

Related Articles

TIMES.KY
0:00
0:00
Close
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner
×