Published: Tue, February 20, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Oxfam says ex-Haiti director admitted to hiring sex workers

Oxfam says ex-Haiti director admitted to hiring sex workers

Oxfam has for the first time publicly released its internal report into the 2011 Haiti prostitution scandal which has badly damaged the British charity's reputation around the world.

An Oxfam sign is seen on a wall in Corail, a camp for displaced people of the quake of 2010, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 17, 2018.

"We've communicated that to the minister and we've given as best we can explanations as to what happened in 2011", Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam's regional director, told reporters on Monday, after meeting Aviol Fleurant, Haiti's minister of planning and external cooperation.

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 10-page report alleges that the director of operations in the country, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, admitted using sex workers in his charity-funded accommodation and was granted a "phased and dignified exit".

The Haitian government has expressed outrage and launched its own inquiry.

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Allegations of sexual misconduct against those sent to help victims of the natural disaster, which killed tens of thousands, have shaken the aid sector, with Haiti's president calling for investigations of other groups.

The report also said three Oxfam employees were involved in "physically threatening and intimidating" a witness who spoke to the investigators.

Oxfam's funding in the United Kingdom is now under review.

"Now we are working to see if there was a cover-up, because their report never made it to the Haitian authorities", he added.

Publication of the report comes as Oxfam seeks to move past the scandal after the British government on Friday suspended new funding to Oxfam's British affiliate.

Save the Children is facing its own problems after claims this weekend that one staff member drunkenly harassed a female colleague in 2015, holding her by the throat.

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Last week, Oxfam unveiled an action plan to tackle sexual harassment and abuse, including creating a new vetting system for staff.

While the report confirms Oxfam's previous statements that allegations of workers having sex with minors weren't substantiated, it goes on to say that "it can not be ruled out that any of the prostitutes were under-aged". Hauwermeiren has denied paying for sex with prostitutes or abusing minors.

In it, he claimed he had not visited any brothels, nightclubs or bars in Haiti, despite offers from men and women "who tried to get into my house with all sorts of excuses to demand money, work, or to offer sexual services".

Van Hauwermeiren says he told Oxfam he had "intimate relations" three times at his house with "an honorable, mature woman, who was not an quake victim nor a prostitute".

Asked on ITV's Peston on Sunday if Mr Goldring should quit, she said: "If he wants to lead Oxfam he has to demonstrate that he understand what Oxfam has done wrong".

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