Haiti Suspends Oxfam Great Britain After Sex Scandal

Haiti Suspends Oxfam Great Britain After Sex Scandal

Oxfam International said in a statement Thursday that it “was committed to cooperate with their investigation.”

Three other Oxfam groups — from Italy, Spain and Quebec — are continuing to work in Haiti. And Oxfam International’s regional director, Simon Ticehurst, said that because of an attempt by the umbrella group to streamline its operations, Oxfam Great Britain had no staff left in Haiti, in any case.

The group has come under extreme fire since The Times of London reported that the charity had let seven staff members go after an internal investigation confirmed the activity with prostitutes at Oxfam residences in the Port-au-Prince area. More broadly, the humanitarian aid profession as a whole has been forced to do deep soul-searching.

Mr. Ticehurst said some 750,000 Haitians have been helped by Oxfam, and he expressed concern about the long-term effects of the scandal, including on fund-raising. “This will have an impact on the whole organization,” he said. “It has impacted the reputation — the Oxfam name.”

In Britain, the government has begun an investigation and halted funding to Oxfam, one of the country’s largest charities. The group’s deputy chief executive stepped down after revelations that Oxfam workers in Chad had engaged in similar behavior in 2006, under the same Oxfam country director who was in charge in Haiti years later.

Oxfam leaders have apologized repeatedly, and said the misbehavior of the staff members in Haiti had led to tougher policies and safeguards. The internal investigation found that some employees patronized prostitutes on company property, or bullied staff members and downloaded pornography on company equipment.

Oxfam leaders insisted that they had not engaged in a cover-up, saying they shared the findings of their inquiry with the British government’s Charity Commission. The commission took no action, but its chief investigator said that had it known the full extent of the misconduct, it would have taken treated the case differently.

The charity has since released a redacted copy of its investigation.

Oxfam has a long history in Haiti that stretches back decades before the 2010 earthquake that killed as many as 316,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.

Afterward, thousands of humanitarian agencies — some well known and some just starting up — descended on the country, saving lives but also getting little direction from the weak Haitian government and operating with scant accountability.

Gratitude quickly turned to anger among Haitians living in squalid camps, particularly after United Nations troops inadvertently introduced cholera to the country, which has killed thousands. Many peacekeepers have been described as acting with impunity, accused of rape and of fathering children with Haitian women before leaving the country.

Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, told Reuters last Friday that Oxfam was just “the visible part of the iceberg” and that a much broader investigation into aid organizations in the country was needed.

Many critics of the aid groups agree.

Mark Schuller, an associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University and author of “Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti” said the aid workers who flooded Haiti after the earthquake, looking to put a “notch on the humanitarian bedpost,” had been given a “do-gooder” pass for too long.

“What should the response be?” he wrote in a newsletter. “Yes, apologies and righteous indignation. But let’s not let N.G.O.s try and distance themselves.”

Mr. Schuller said, “It’s true that this may well be the beginning of a #MeToo movement in Haiti, and hopefully elsewhere in the world where reward structures of the aid industry reinforce inequality, imperialism and patriarchy.”

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