Oxfam apologizes over handling of Haiti abuse scandal

Haiti President Jovenel Moise

The British charity Oxfam has been hit with dozens more misconduct allegations involving a slew of countries, in the days since The Times of London revealed Oxfam tried to cover up sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 quake.

The worldwide development committee called an urgent hearing last week to question Oxfam heads, following anger over the charity's handling of allegations that staff in Haiti used prostitutes, including those who may have been underage.

During the session, chaired by Stephen Twigg MP, Goldring announced that the charity was now looking into a further 26 new claims of sexual misconduct, including 16 in its worldwide operations, and that it had now appointed a former police officer to vet volunteers under new safeguarding actions.

Mr Goldring, the Oxfam GB chief executive, said the reaction to the scandal was "disproportionate" and the "scale and intensity" of criticism did not fit the crimes, adding: 'Anything we say is being manipulated'.

Oxfam has also apologised to the Haitian government.

An internal Oxfam investigation from 2011, published this week, confirmed seven of the charity's staff members were accused of using prostitutes at a residence in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The scandal of the sexual misconduct of some workers in Haiti, exposed by The Times this month, was a warning against complacency to the entire aid sector, he added.

He revealed that 7,000 individuals had cancelled direct debits to the charity in the last 10 days, and said that of the 26 cases reported, 16 had taken place in Oxfam's global programmes.

Simon Ticehurst and Margalida Massot, two of Oxfam's senior staff, met with Haiti's minister of planning and external cooperation on Monday to offer their "humblest apologies". Some ugly men came into our organisation and abused the trust of the British people, the supporters, But they were able to get away, to get a recommendation to leave.

Goldring told the committee that at the time of the original investigation into events in Haiti, Oxfam issued a press release revealing its findings of "serious misconduct" involving bullying, intimidation and breaches of the charity's code of conduct.

Goldring has faced personal criticism after he was quoted in Saturday's Guardian newspaper as saying: "The intensity and ferocity of the attacks makes you wonder, what did we do?"

Yesterday he repeated his apology for Oxfam's failings and agreed that major reforms were needed.

"I have tried hard to balance work and sleep over the last two weeks". At that stage we will make further decisions about continuing or amending how those programmes are delivered.

Haiti's president last night said the Oxfam case was only "the visible part of the iceberg" and called for investigations into Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, and other aid organisations.

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