Haiti: Authorities suspend Oxfam's actions over sexual misconduct scandal

The Caribbean nation suspended the international British charity  from operating in the country

Haiti: Authorities suspend Oxfam's actions over sexual misconduct scandal

The chief of mission of the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti in London, England, tweeted that “The Haitian government has decided to suspend temporarily the authorization of Oxfam GB to operate in Haiti”.

Said suspension will last, at least, two months, according to the organization. This action will allow for Haiti’s police to investigate how the British organization handled “the allegations of staff paying for sex during the agency’s humanitarian response to the 2010 earthquake”, according to BBC news.

"Oxfam has apologized to the Haitian government and people for abuses by former staff that occurred in 2011. Oxfam is committed to putting in place a number of wide-sweeping initiatives to improve its global safeguarding policies and practices, including the establishment of an independent commission and putting more staff and resources into its safeguarding teams”, stated the official press release.

During the month of February, Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, has relinquished her duties in the light of the British charity being accused of concealing the findings that proved that staff stationed in Haiti in 2011 used prostitutes while delivering aid.

 

Oxfam publicly denies a cover up. Regardless, the Charity Commission has launched an inquiry to better assess the situation. Lawrence has publicly stated that she feels “ashamed” of the acts perpetrated by others within the organization and takes full responsibility.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, stated: "There was an exploration of how should the organization respond but we didn't act on it"

Said statements came after an earlier meeting with the International Development Secretary which sought to protect, and maintain, Oxfam’s funding from being suspended.

On February 9th, Oxfam’s situation became of public knowledge when The Times brought to light. It stated that the organization’s country director for Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, used prostitutes at the home that had been designated for him after the 2010 earthquake.

"It is now clear that these allegations - involving the use of prostitutes and which related to the behaviour of both the country director and members of his team in Chad - were raised before he moved to Haiti"

According to the watchdog, Oxfam knew about the actions being perpetrated by Van Hauwermeiren, as well as those of another member that had also worked in Chad prior to being given a senior role in Haiti.

Allegations that underage girls were hired have been unproven

Widza Bryant, worked in Human Relations for Oxfam for three years in Haiti, stated that many knew about the “ongoing rumors” about locals being persuaded, or coerced, into sexual acts in order to be exploited by management. Bryant also stated to BBC News, “There were a lot of rumors on the ground about management and leaders exploiting the locals sexually and in other ways to get jobs and to have a good standing”.

The European Commission stated that it expects clarity and transparency from the British organization, adding that it will “cease funding to any partner not living up to high ethical standards”. Due to this, Oxfam has been obliged to tell the Department for International Development how it will handle future allegations or it may lose government funding. 

 

Latin American Post | Susana Cicchetto

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