Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) is under pressure from the Charity Commission after The Times of London uncovered that senior aid staff had paid for “full-on Caligula orgies” with survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
The investigation alleges that some of the Haitians involved in this scheme may have been under the age of legal consent.
In Haiti, prostitution is illegal, and the age of consent is 18. However, the organization allegedly decided to not report the incidents since it “was extremely unlikely that any action would be taken.”
Staff involved in the scandal included Oxfam’s former Haiti Director Roland van Hauwermeiren, who, at the time, occupied a villa rented by Oxfam and reportedly admitted to paying for prostitutes with charitable funds.
Four people involved in the incidents were fired for sexual exploitation, the downloading of pornography, bullying and intimidation; at least three others were allowed to resign. Van Hauwermeiren was allowed to exit the organization in a dignified matter in order to contain the scandal. But thanks to this report, however, Oxfam is now being accused of covering up the incident.
While Oxfam informed the Charity Commission about the nature of allegations, it still hasn’t provided the charity watchdog with a final report.
“We will expect the charity to provide us with assurance that it has learnt lessons from past incidents and is taking all necessary steps to safeguard all who come into contact with it,” a Charity Commission spokeswoman said.
According to The Times, the charity organization’s confidential incident report said there was a “culture of impunity” among Oxfam staff in Haiti. It also concluded that “[i]t cannot be ruled out that any of the prostitutes were underaged,” reporters added.
Oxfam reported the investigation in 2011 but did not mention sexual misconduct, choosing to instead, talk about the cases of abuse of power and bullying.
The devastating 2010 earthquake killed 220,000, injured another 300,000, and left 1.5 million homeless. It’s tragic to know that members of a charity organization tasked with helping the earthquake victims would be so quick to exploit them as well. Thankfully, this story is finally coming to light.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters/Simon Newman