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A senior WHO official has been fired for sexual assault

Today, Monday, the World Health Organization announced the dismissal of a senior official in its non-communicable diseases department, Fijian doctor Timo Wakanivalu, on charges of sexual assault after three charges against him in recent years.

Spokeswoman Marcia Ball, who made the announcement via email, did not provide further details. But the media has reported that the senior official is accused of at least three alleged assaults since 2017.

The Associated Press named him in January as the alleged perpetrator of a widely reported alleged sexual assault case at the World Health Summit in Berlin last October: a young British doctor, Rosie James, tweeted at the time that she had been “sexually assaulted by a WHO employee” during the meeting.

The director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, responded to his tweet, saying he was “horrified” by the accusations and offering his personal assistance, stressing that the agency had “zero tolerance for sexual abuse”.

The Associated Press also reported that Wakanivalu was involved in a similar case in 2018.

Last October, when the accusation was announced, he was seeking a senior position at the World Health Organization in Asia, according to the report.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times said it had uncovered a third charge against him, dating back to an event in 2017.

Asked to confirm this information, WHO said that since “the relevant investigations and administrative processes are confidential,” it could not provide any further details of the case.

The World Health Organization said Wakanevalu remained “on administrative leave while the investigation is underway”.

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The ongoing WHO reform process comes after the agency faced intense criticism for its slowness in responding to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak.