Staff 'must be safe' from fallout of Oxfam scandal

Pauline Gross
February 14, 2018

Actress Minnie Driver became the first Oxfam ambassador to step down from the role late on February 13.

On Monday the deputy head of Oxfam resigned over what she said was the charity's failure to respond adequately to the allegations of sexual misconduct by some of its staff in Chad as well as in Haiti.

Oxfam executives are also accused of covering up the scandal and the charity is now subject to an inquiry from the U.K.'s Charity Commission.

The 48-year-old actress has worked with the charity for over 20 years but has chose to step down after a recent investigation revealed an alleged cover-up of aid workers' use of prostitutes in Haiti.

Ms Driver, who had travelled to Cambodia and Thailand with the charity, said she would continue to fight economic and social injustice.

U.K. Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has warned that government funding to the group - some 31.7 million pounds ($43.8 million) - is at risk unless it comes clean about the allegations. She acknowledged that allegations had been known that country director for Chad, Roland van Hauwermeiren, and members of his staff, had paid for sex while they were stationed in the African country in 2006 before the team was moved to Haiti four years later.

"We are very serious about it and we believe an example has to be set", he said. "The case for the type of work done by Oxfam is too strong to allow it to be undermined by bad behaviour", he said.

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Both Oxfam and Save the Children Australia say they are urgently reviewing their staff-vetting and monitoring procedures in light of the developments.

A British newspaper reported on Friday Oxfam UK staff paid Haiti locals for sex in a villa rented by the organisation in the aftermath of the quake in 2010.

Britain is one of only six nations to hit the U.N. target of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid - about 13 billion pounds a year - but there have been increasingly vitriolic attacks on that spending in recent years. "We also, in a number of countries, support partner organisations that work with sex workers to ensure their basic rights; so we are definitely not in any position to tell sex workers how to live their lives".

"The approach that we are taking is that we need to triple check that matters of the past have been appropriately dealt with", she said.

Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps, one of the biggest aid agencies in the world, said it made a strategic priority past year to assess and strengthen its culture, policies and procedures relating to gender diversity and inclusion, which also encompasses how it addresses sexual misconduct.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that reports of sexual abuse of vulnerable people in Haiti were "disgraceful and disgusting" but he added: "It's not a reason to cut the budget, it's a reason to manage it carefully".

Several of Oxfam's corporate sponsors, including Sainsbury's, Visa, M&S and the Co-op bank, have said they contacted the charity to raise concerns about the claims.

Other reports by GizPress

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