Haiti’s president has condemned the “serious violation of human dignity” by Oxfam following the sex allegations against aid workers in the country.
The charity has issued an “unreserved apology” to the Government, donors, supporters and the people of Haiti over its handling of incidents including the alleged use of prostitutes by workers, in the earthquake-hit country in 2011.
Haitian president Jovenel Moise said: “What happened is an extremely serious violation of human dignity.
“This case is all the more odious because the funds which financed these crimes were obtained from the British people in a spirit of altruism and solidarity towards the Haitian people.”
He added: “Let it be clear to all of Haiti’s international partners, if their personnel exploit or do wrong to our citizens when they are supposed to be ‘aiding’ them, we will not be inclined to tolerate it and we will not tolerate it.”
Oxfam’s leaders in Haiti are expected to be called in for crisis talks with Mr Moise’s government as it considers its response.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said she was taking the issue “very seriously” but would not rush into deciding on whether to pull Government funding from the charity.
The charity received £31.7 million from the UK Government in 2016/17, but the support has been put at risk by the scandal, which led to the resignation of its deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said she is taking the Oxfam aid worker sex scandal ‘very seriously’ (Victoria Jones/PA)
Ms Mordaunt said: “I know people will be worried about the charity, they’ll be worried about the money, but we need to be guided by what the Charity Commission are doing and also I have made it very clear to Oxfam what we expect to see from them.
“But these decisions shouldn’t be taken hastily, but I am considering them.”
The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry amid concerns Oxfam may not have “fully and frankly disclosed material details” when it first investigated allegations of misconduct in 2011.
The watchdog also said it had concerns about the charity’s handling of incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence.
On Monday, Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former global head of safeguarding, told Channel 4 News that she begged senior staff, ministers and the regulator to act on the sexual abuse allegations.
She also detailed three new allegations made against Oxfam staff overseas in a single day.
Ms Evans said: “There was one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that, and we were then concerned about what he might be doing, and that was three allegations in one day.”
Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, has said he will not stand down unless the charity’s board tells him it has lost faith in his leadership, and has apologised to Ms Evans over the way her concerns were handled.
Shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor said both the watchdog and the Government have questions to answer over Ms Evans’s claims they ignored her calls to act.
The Labour frontbencher said: “The Charity Commission and Government departments have serious questions to answer: Why did they take no action in response to concerns raised by Helen Evans in June 2015 and August 2015? Are there other whistleblowers that have brought safeguarding concerns to the Charity Commission only to be ignored?
“It is crucial that we now understand how far this appalling scandal reaches, and whether the Charity Commission is operating effectively as an independent regulator.”
Four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed and three, including the country director Roland van Hauwermeiren, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation.
According to the Times, Oxfam knew about concerns over the conduct of Mr van Hauwermeiren and another man when they worked in Chad before they were given senior roles in Haiti.