GENEVA, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The U.N. agency for HIV and AIDS has placed its country director for Nigeria on administrative leave following allegations of sexual harassment, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Spokeswoman Sophie Barton-Knott declined to name the person put on leave and said she could not comment on individual cases.
The United Nations has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with such accusations in recent years after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse charges were made against U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic.
The Nigeria case is one of three under investigation at UNAIDS, Barton-Knott said.
"It was an administrative leave while the (Nigeria) case is being looked into," she said.
The cases have been referred to the World Health Organization's Office of Internal Oversight, which looks into such matters for the smaller agency, she said.
Peter Ghys, director of strategic information and evaluation department at UNAIDS, said that an acting head of its Nigeria programme had been appointed.
"So I think there will be continuity. Of course as you say, Nigeria is an important country, lots of things are going in that country and it is a big part of the epidemic - actually the biggest part of the epidemic for West and Central Africa.
"We are trying to ensure continuity in operations as they relate to the HIV response," he told reporters on Thursday.
An independent panel of experts that has been reviewing general policies is to report back to its board in early December, Ghys said. "We have put in place an open platform to report cases, and that includes a hotline," he added.
Forty allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were made during the last quarter of 2017 against U.N. peacekeeping missions, agencies, funds and programmes, as well as partners, the United Nations has said.
The late Ruud Lubbers, head of the U.N. refugee agency, resigned in 2005 after an employee accused him of unwelcome touching. He denied the allegation. An internal report supported the allegation but the then U.N. secretary-general said it could not be substantiated.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
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