Oxfam accused of failing in its 'moral leadership' over Haiti sex scandal

Feb 12, 2018, 00:36
Oxfam accused of failing in its 'moral leadership' over Haiti sex scandal

Oxfam has faced growing criticism over the way it handled the allegations that some of its staff used prostitutes in Haiti, while they were there as part of the relief effort in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.0 natural disaster that killed more than 200,000 people in 2010.

Reuters could not independently verify the allegations contained in The Times report and was unable to reach any of the Oxfam staff who worked in Haiti.

In a further warning, she said: "If they do not hand over all the information that they have from their investigation and subsequently to the relevant authorities, including the Charity Commission and prosecuting authorities, then I can not work with them any more as an aid delivery partner".

She added: "They did absolutely the wrong thing".

Late on Friday, the Department for International Development (DFID) also said it was reviewing its relationship with the UK-based charity, to which it gave almost £32 million (36 million euros/$44 million) previous year.

Oxfam, one of the world's most prominent relief agencies, could lose its funding from the British government over reports that its workers exploited survivors of a massive quake in Haiti, and possibly other disasters, for sex.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt had requested a meeting with Oxfam's senior team "at the earliest opportunity", the spokesman said.

DfID said Oxfam had "serious questions" to answer following the revelations.

Goldring apologised yesterday and said he was 'deeply ashamed of Oxfam's behaviour [in Haiti]'.

He admitted Oxfam did not give full details of the scandal to the commission in 2011, but insisted it "did anything but cover it up".

"But I don't think it was in anyone's best interest to be describing the details of the behavior in a way that was actually going to draw extreme attention to it when what we wanted to do was get on and deliver an aid program".

But, he did admit that whilst he was "not informed" about the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled at Oxfam, DFID "did report the matter to various regulators and to the Department of International Development" they "did not specify the nature of the allegations or the nature of the misdemeanours that had taken place".

Some of Oxfam's staff allegedly hired prostitutes while in Haiti trying to help the country recover from the 2010 natural disaster.

Some employees, such as Roland van Hauwermeiren, the country director in Haiti for Britain-based Oxfam until 2011, were given permission to resign without any further action being taken against them.

But he denied claims of a cover-up.

On Saturday the Charity Commission said that while Oxfam had reported that it was investigating inappropriate sexual behaviour, bullying, harassment and staff intimidation, it had not given the full details.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to stop individuals falsifying references, getting others that were dismissed to act as referees and claiming it was a reference from Oxfam", a spokeswoman added.

CEO Mark Goldring told ITV News he was sorry for the incident but denied it had been covered up by the charity.

During the probe, Oxfam dismissed four staff members and another three resigned, including van Hauwermeiren.

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