Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Oxfam denies covering up sex worker scandal in quake hit Haiti

Oxfam denies covering up sex worker scandal in quake hit Haiti

The NGO denies that it has disguised this case to protect its reputation.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, who Oxfam has confirmed was forced to resign as Haiti country director in 2011 after allegedly admitting hiring prostitutes, went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh in 2014, according to The Times.

According to the British newspaper The Times, Oxfam employees hired young prostitutes in Haiti in 2011 during a mission following the quake that ravaged the country in 2010, killing almost 300,000 people.

"These allegations are deeply shocking and Oxfam must now provide the Charity Commission with all the evidence they hold of events that happened in Haiti as a matter of urgency", Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, said according to the Times.

Millions were left homeless and 220,000 people were killed in the disaster
Image Millions were left homeless and 220,000 people were killed in the disaster

Oxfam did not report the scandal to authorities in Haiti because "it was extremely unlikely that any action would be taken" in light of the upheaval the country was facing, the paper reported.

An investigation by British newspaper The Times found the charity, which is headquartered in Oxford, UK, allowed three men to resign and sacked four others, who had been accused of gross misconduct following an inquiry into sexual exploitation by aid workers.

"In addition, we received positive references from former Oxfam staff members who had worked with him, including a human relations officer", the NGO told The Times.

A DfID spokesman said: 'We often work with organisations in chaotic and hard circumstances.

Our primary aim was always to root out and take action against those involved and we publicly announced, including to media, both the investigation and the action we took as a result.

But the public statement that Oxfam made in 2011 did not say whether the staff members involved had left voluntarily, where they ranked in the organization or even that they had done wrong. A number of staff were dismissed as a result of the investigation and others left the organisation before it was completed. Allegations such as those involving Oxfam staff risk undermining public trust. The report explained that the misconduct related to inappropriate sexual behaviour, bullying, harassment and the intimidation of staff.

"Allegations that underage girls may have been involved were not proven", the charity added, saying that the investigation had "resulted in the creation of our dedicated safeguarding team and a confidential "whistleblowing" hotline".

"At the time, and based on the information provided, we were satisfied that the trustees were handling matters appropriately and did not have regulatory concerns".

She said: "We are now engaged with the charity regarding its approach to safeguarding following more recent allegations".

In a statement to Varsity, Murray Edwards said that they believed the cover-up allegation was "untrue" and that the Charity Commission was alerted to the incident at the time. We expect the charity to include in their review incidents that occurred in 2011.

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