24 April: The World Health Organization (WHO) has fired Temo Waqanivalu, a senior manager, for sexual misconduct following an investigation prompted by a complaint from Dr Rosie James, a junior British doctor. Read more to find out the details and implications of this case.
James, who works for England’s National Health Service, accused Waqanivalu of sexual misconduct in a Twitter message in October 2020. Waqanivalu is a Fijian doctor who led a unit on noncommunicable diseases at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.
The WHO launched an investigation into the allegations and found evidence of sexual misconduct against Waqanivalu. The investigation was conducted by an independent panel of experts and followed the WHO’s policies and procedures on sexual harassment and abuse of authority.
The WHO spokesperson said that Waqanivalu was dismissed from the WHO after a disciplinary process that respected his due process rights. The spokesperson added that sexual misconduct of any kind by anyone working for the WHO is unacceptable and that the WHO is committed to creating a safe and respectful work environment for all its staff and partners.
Waqanivalu can appeal his dismissal internally to the WHO and, if unsuccessful, to a tribunal at the International Labour Organization (ILO), the spokesperson said. A source familiar with the proceedings said that Waqanivalu had denied the allegations throughout the investigation.
The WHO is the leading global health agency and has been at the forefront of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has faced criticism for its handling of the crisis and its relationship with China, where the virus was first detected. The agency has also been accused of being slow to address allegations of sexual abuse by its staff and partners in Congo during an Ebola outbreak in 2018-2020.