Oxfam is a UK based charity that works in disaster zones providing sanitation and clean drinking water to those affected, mostly in third world countries.
However, they have come under harsh criticism as of late for reports that in 2010 workers from the organization covered up claims of staff that sexually exploited victims during the earthquake in Haiti.
Culture of Poor Behavior
The Charity Commission, a UK watchdog group focused on keeping charity organizations accountable, said that Oxfam developed a “culture of poor behavior” that allowed the horrific events to happen.
They went on to criticize the culture that Oxfam developed and encouraged, and stated that no charity was so large that it could not protect the people it was responsible for.
Seven former Oxfam staff have been accused of sexual assault and exploitation. Oxfam responded to this accusation by saying that what happened during their time spent in Haiti was “shameful”.
How Long Has This Been Hidden?
The story first broke in The Times last year when claims were being published that Oxfam employees were using young prostitutes during their stay in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
In 2011 an internal investigation was underway that resulted in four people being fired, and three more resigning from their positions. The biggest name? Ronald van Hauwermeiren, who was at that time the Country Director.
A man of that much power and importance in the organization was at the center of the scandal.
After the investigation, and the release of employees, in an attempt to be transparent Oxfam released a report about the incident. However, it said nothing about sexual exploitation in it, attempting to hide the shameful actions of its staff.
The Charity Commission’s Report
This report was released this week, and in it, the actions in Haiti are not only highlighted but presented in a way that shows this was not a one-and-done type of incident. In the Oxfam charity shop in the UK 16 series incidence was reported as involving volunteers under the age of 18.
The report goes on to show that Oxfam failed to properly investigate reports that children as young as 12 years old were victims of sexual misconduct. Senior staff had favor and pull over junior staff, creating an imbalance in power and responsibility.
In addition, Oxfam did little to attempt to discern the actual impact the staff’s actions had on the victims in Haiti, leaving and hoping no one noticed.
This all points to gross incompetence on the part of Oxfam staff and internal investigators and many are now saying that they are sweeping it under the rug because these actions involved van Hauwermeiren, a major player in the charity scene.
Oxfam has apologized for their actions in Haiti and how they handled in the incidents, since the report has come out, and has plastered their website with promises of doing better and implementing changes. For many, this is too little, too late.
Insiders state that changes to the organization’s culture will take years, and if this happened in Haiti, there is a good chance it has happened elsewhere, too.
While we aren’t diminishing the fact that Oxfam has done good work for people in the past, this is a charity you might want to steer clear of from now on. Your money is better donated elsewhere, at least until their organization gets cleaned up.