The President of Haiti has condemned Oxfam’s handling of a sex scandal in his country, describing the controversy as a “serious violation of human dignity”.
President Jovenel Moise last night described the aid workers who are alleged to have exchanged “aid for sex” as “sexual predators”, amid reports that the country is preparing to launch a criminal investigation.
Taking to social media, Mr Moïse said: “There is nothing more undignified and dishonest than a sexual predator who uses his position as part of the humanitarian response to a natural disaster to exploit the needy people in their moments of great vulnerability.
“What happened with Oxfam in Haiti is an extremely serious violation of human dignity.”
Mr Moïse’s condemnation of the charity comes as Haiti’s ambassador to the UK suggested on Monday that the country could launch a criminal probe in the coming weeks.
Describing the disclosures as a “big surprise” Bocchit Hammond said: “There was no report of those crimes being committed in Haiti by Oxfam.”
He also attacked the former chief executive of Oxfam, Dame Barbara Stocking, who he said had insulted the country by suggesting the authorities would not have dealt with the allegations in 2011, at the time of the report being issued.
“I saw the then-Oxfam director, Dame Barbara Stocking, mentioned that one of the reasons that those crimes were not reported was because they believed nothing would have been done about it, which is really an insult to my country because you are working in a place and country which is not a forest,” he added.
“Even though there was a chaotic situation after the earthquake…the state of Haiti did not cease to exist. Our police was still there.
“How can you not report those crimes because you believe nothing would be done. It is a cover up. We need to differentiate it, it is not an attempt. It was a cover up. Because the top executives here in London were informed.”
Last week, Dame Barbara defended the charity’s handling of the Haiti scandal, claiming that it had taken “immediate action…to get the disciplinary matters resolved”.
Pressed on why the charity had not alerted the Haitian authorities, she claimed that they had received legal advice that the country’s authorities would not take any action.
“We were in the middle of an earthquake response,” she told the BBC. “In a short time, within a month or so, we managed to investigate nine staff and deal with all of them.
“Four were dismissed, one resigned early, two resigned in the process of the investigation – before we could dismiss them – and two were found not culpable.”
Meanwhile, amid new claims that reports of sexual abuse in charity shops were not acted upon in the UK, a poll by Sky has found that 46 percent of the public think that Oxfam should have their state funding withdrawn.
It comes as as the charity’s former head of safeguarding, Helen Evans, accused her bosses of ignoring her evidence and her pleas for more resources, forcing her to quit in despair.
Ms Evans said that staff had been accused of rape and that sexual abuse by shop managers in UK stores against young volunteers was covered up.
Ten per cent of staff in some countries had been sexually assaulted by colleagues or witnessed abuse, she added.
Her allegations emerged just hours after Penny Lawrence, the charity’s deputy chief executive, quit over the scandal and the Government announced that it would be launching a unit to investigate sex abuse in the aid sector.
In the wake of the scandal, the charity watchdog announce a statutory inquiry late last night.
The watchdog said Oxfam may not have “fully and frankly disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011” and it also had concerns about its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence.
The commission’s deputy chief executive David Holdsworth said: “Charities and dedicated, hard-working aid workers undertake vital, lifesaving work in some of the most difficult circumstances across the world.
“However, the issues revealed in recent days are shocking and unacceptable. It is important that we take this urgent step to ensure that these matters can be dealt with fully and robustly.”