Medicine

Government reviews relationship with charity Oxfam after Haiti sex allegations

Government reviews relationship with charity Oxfam after Haiti sex allegations

The charity is under growing pressure after an investigation by The Times found young sex workers were hired by senior staff in Haiti after the 2010 quake which devastated the island and left up to 300,000 people dead. A statement at the time by Oxfam did not mention the seven staff had left the charity for sexual misconduct.

Van Hauwermeiren, 68, admitted using an Oxfam-funded villa to host prostitutes in the wake of the natural disaster in January 2010, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said it was engaged with Oxfam on more recent allegations of sexual harassment, reported widely past year, and has demanded that the charity provide details of the claims in Haiti.

Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation, Oxfam said.

Haiti, reeling after the January 2010 quake which killed an estimated 200,000 people, was already the victim of another aid worker-created disaster: United Nations relief workers from Nepal reportedly sparked a cholera outbreak on the island which killed thousands.

It comes after allegations in The Times suggesting that charity bosses failed to warn other aid agencies about the behaviour of certain staff members.

Oxfam says it would not have provided a positive reference for any of those who were dismissed or resigned.

The British government on Friday ordered Oxfam to hand over to the Charity Commission, the United Kingdom body monitoring humanitarian associations, its documents on employees involved in the Haiti case.

As soon as we became aware of the allegations we immediately launched an internal investigation. The following year, he took a position as head of mission for the French charity Action Against Hunger, in poverty-stricken Bangladesh.

DfID will now be under pressure to ensure there is zero tolerance of sexual misconduct within agencies that receive government aid funds. The incident was reported to the appropriate bodies, including the Charities [sic] Commission.

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Meanwhile, the former International Development Secretary Priti Patel called for prosecutions into the alleged abuses.

The UK now spends £13bn on aid each year and there have always been calls from some Conservative MPs for cuts to this budget.

The Charity Commission has said that Oxfam did not disclose full details about the use of prostitutes by some staff in Haiti in 2011.

The chief executive said: "With hindsight, I would much prefer that we had talked about sexual misconduct".

He added: "I am absolutely committed... to wipe out that kind of behaviour from Oxfam and rebuild that relationship of trust [with the public]".

"We often work with organisations in chaotic and hard circumstances".

In its statement Friday, Oxfam said that it had informed its trustees, the United Kingdom government's Charity Commission and global development agency, as well as other major donors such as the European Union, the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies of the investigation and the outcome.

"The International Development Secretary is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity", a DFID spokesperson said.

But he said he could not recall being told about the incident.


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