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Start Network statement in response to reports of sexual abuse in DRC during Ebola crisis

Christina Bennett, CEO and Suzanne Lyne, CFOO

News Article

The allegations of sexual abuse by aid workers from the UN and NGOs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the 2018-2020 Ebola response are deeply disturbing and sad. We are appalled by the reports and condemn any sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers. Our thoughts are first and foremost with the women and men who have endured such abuse at the hands of the very people they trusted would help.

Improving safeguarding across the aid sector is vital and must be done collaboratively to ensure those organisations meet their responsibility to do no harm. In 2018, the Start Network and our members committed to taking greater action on safeguarding and we have since strengthened the vetting of members’ safeguarding procedures.

All organisations admitted to the Start Network membership go through a robust due diligence process. This includes an assessment of potential risks across key areas of organisational management, a requirement to have zero-tolerance and adequate safeguarding policies and procedures in place and documentation of approaches and processes that proactively and robustly incorporate safeguarding principles. We constantly review and improve the effectiveness of our own policies and procedures.

Such incidents do so much damage to the humanitarian sector, whose organisations and individuals work tirelessly and genuinely to assist and protect people in need. Although we have been grappling with these issues for some time, it is clear that abuse of position and power by aid workers requires more attention and focus. It is not enough to merely improve safeguarding policies and procedures. We must break up the power dynamics that permit such abhorrent behaviour.

Shifting power is at the heart of what Start Network believes in and what it aims to do through its work. We are in a position to be able to effect positive change in the cultures and behaviours of the organisations that make up the Start Network. And with this position comes both individual and collective responsibility to confront, challenge and rectify our own behaviours.


  • Start Network recognises that the humanitarian sector has fallen short in terms of safeguarding vulnerable people with which it has been committed to serve. In 2018, our members, NGOs, safeguarding experts, DFID, and the Charity Commission pledged to improve safeguarding standards across the international humanitarian sector at a Safeguarding Summit. The joint pledge to ensure all people are safe from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment was signed by 32 organisations and government, including the Start Network. 
  • Start Network has zero tolerance for any forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, bullying or harassment and works to protect people, particularly children, at-risk adults and affected populations from any harm that may be caused due to their coming into contact with Start Network


If you have any safeguarding concerns related to Start Network's staff, programmes or activities, please make a report by:
Or calling: +447939088467

All reports are taken seriously and the Safeguarding Officer will acknowledge receipt of the concern within 48 hours and begin taking action.


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