UK Govt May Stop Funding Oxfam Over Haiti Sexual Abuse Scandal
News regarding sexual misconduct by Oxfam’s members in Haiti and Chad, and its cover up, resurfaced recently.
The news that the UK government is threatening to cut off financial aid to Oxfam, one of UK’s largest and most popular charities, over alleged sexual misconduct by its former staff, has left the organisation extremely panic-stricken.
According to CNN, the sexual misconduct allegations date back to 2011 following the Haiti earthquake, when several Oxfam members, including the Oxfam country director (at the time), Roland van Hauwermeiren, were accused of turning one of the rented villas into a makeshift brothel, paying the local women for sex.
The incident came to light on Friday, 10 January when an investigation launched by The Times (London), suggested that the organisation had attempted to cover-up the sex-crimes committed by its senior members.
On Sunday, reports The Guardian, the international organisation’s reputation took a greater blow, when the news of several Oxfam members in Chad paying the local women for sex, reached the masses.
The Guardian report adds that Oxfam’s own annual report showed that it had dealt with 87 allegations of sexual abuse conducted by the staff in the period between 2016 and 2017.
While the organisation denied all allegations of a cover-up, reports BBC, it prepared to meet with the British government’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who on Sunday said the organisation was expected to account for the way it managed the allegations or risk losing government funding, which was worth £32m in the last financial year, reports BBC.
If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation isn’t there, then we cannot have you (the organisation) as a partner.Penny Mordaunt told BBC
She had added that it was completely wrong of the organisation to have not reported the incidents, the report said.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May also told Reuters that the government was looking to strengthen its systems to enforce a ‘zero tolerance approach’ in matters such as these.
Britain’s government needs to do more to make charities strengthen safeguarding procedures to ensure the “horrific behaviour” of some members of Oxfam International is not repeated.The Prime Minister’s spokesperson told Reuters
In a response to this, the organisation on Sunday stated that it was “shocked and dismayed” to hear the allegations, and ahead of the meeting with Mordaunt, said it would take greater measures into investigating, preventing and handling sexual abuse cases such as these, the report added.
It is not sufficient to be appalled by the behaviour of our former staff – we must and will learn from it and use it as a spur to improvement.Caroline Thomson, Oxfam’s chairman of trustees told BBC
Winnie Byanyima, who assumed the role of executive director of Oxfam International in 2013, also told Reuters that she was “heartbroken” about the allegations.
I feel deeply, deeply hurt...What happened in Haiti was a few privileged men abusing the very people they were supposed to protect – using the power they had from Oxfam to abuse powerless women. It breaks my heart.Winnie Byanyima told Reuters
“We want to restore trust. We want to build that trust. We are committing to be honest, to be transparent and to be accountable in addressing this issue of sexual misconduct. We are in a different place today,” she added.
According to The Guardian, while four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed, three including the country director had resigned in the wake of the 2011 investigation.
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