UK reviews charity ties over Haiti aid worker allegations

Danny Woods
February 11, 2018

According to the British newspaper, The Times, which broke the story, sex workers allegedly participated in orgies in apartments and hotels paid for by the NGO.

The Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a "full and urgent investigation".

"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".

Paying for prostitutes is illegal in Haiti and goes against Oxfam's code of conduct for worldwide staff.

Van Hauwermeiren, a 68-year-old Belgian, admitted to hiring prostitutes - some of whom may have been underage.

This comes after yesterday an investigation carried out by The Times revealed three Oxfam employees were allowed to resign and four were sacked for gross misconduct after an internal investigation found some workers had used prostitutes in the war-torn region. A statement at the time by Oxfam did not mention the seven staff had left the charity for sexual misconduct.

Roland van Hauwermeiren was forced to step down from his role as Haiti company director in 2011 after it had emerged he had prostitutes at his Oxfam villa. Roland van Hauwermeiren, who was heading up Oxfam's efforts in Haiti, was among those who resigned.

In October a year ago, the Times also reported seven senior officials at the charity have been investigated for misconduct including sexual harassment.

DfID said Oxfam had "serious questions" to answer following the revelations.

A spokesman added: "The International Development Secretary is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity".

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The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.

"We have a zero tolerance policy for the type of activity that took place in this instance, and we expect our partners to as well", the spokesman added. "Moreover we received positive references from former Oxfam staff - in their individual capacities - who worked with him", including from a human resources staffer, a spokesman said.

"If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately, in full", the agency said.

The use of prostitutes by Oxfam staff in Haiti was described yesterday by Liz Truss, the former justice secretary, as "shocking, sickening and depressing". Oxfam Chief Executive Mark Goldring said today it receives less than 10 per cent of its funding from DFID and hoped to continue working with the department while rebuilding trust with the public.

Oxfam did not give the Charity Commission full details about the use of prostitutes by some aid workers in Haiti in 2011, the watchdog says.

In the first wave of humanitarian aid after the natural disaster, Oxfam helped around 700,000 people in the Caribbean country. It raises more than 400 million US dollars a year in donations, sponsorships and government grants.

Oxfam has said it launched an immediate internal investigation in 2011 which found a "culture of impunity" among some staff.

Some sources also claimed that some women involved were under the legal age of consent, which is 18 in Haiti.

The Times was also critical of Oxfam's handling of the investigaton, which was "limited by a determination to keep it out of the public eye".

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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