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Haiti Suspends Oxfam over Sex Scandal

 Aviol Fleurant, Haiti’s minister of planning and external cooperation, left, meeting on Thursday with the Oxfam officials Simon Ticehurst and Margalida Massot (New York Times) 

Aviol Fleurant, Haiti’s minister of planning and external cooperation, left, meeting on Thursday with the Oxfam officials Simon Ticehurst and Margalida Massot (New York Times) 

Oxfam Great Britain has been banned from working in Haiti amidst allegations of sexual misconduct by employees after the 2010 earthquake. The charity organization is currently under investigation. The government of Haiti said it was “shocked at the highest level,” and has suspended Oxfam’s aid package for two months until a final decision is reached.

Haiti's Planning and External Cooperation Minister Aviol Fleurant said in a statement to the press that Oxfam had made a “serious error” by failing to inform Haitian authorities of the allegations. He added that officials are looking into the incidents and trying to determine whether any of the women were underage.

As the story continues to unfold, Oxfam International has claimed that employees were fired or resigned after they were found to have had sex parties with prostitutes in staff housing.

Annually, the British aid organization spends approximately $3.9 million dollars in Haiti but may not be allowed to resume its work. In light of the allegations, Oxfam has promised to improve its global safeguarding policies and practices.

In a statement given Thursday, Oxfam “anticipates temporary suspension will have a significant impact on its work” as they reportedly assist 750,000 people in Haiti.

The charity has agreed to cooperate with the investigation, stating: “this is part of Oxfam's long road ahead to re-establishing trust and partnership, given our 40-year history with Haiti and its citizens. We will stand ready to engage with the people of Haiti and have expressed our openness to collaborate as much as required with the Haiti Government.”

 People walk past an Oxfam sign in Corail, a camp for people displaced after 2010 earthquake, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Reuters)

People walk past an Oxfam sign in Corail, a camp for people displaced after 2010 earthquake, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Reuters)

In 2010, Haiti experienced the worst natural disaster to ever hit the small island nation, killing as many as 316,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. As a result, thousands of humanitarian agencies volunteered to help out, including Oxfam.

According to the New York Times, the charities were “saving lives but also getting little direction from the weak Haitian government and operating with scant accountability.”

As waves of humanitarian groups poured into Haiti, various scandals ensued.

Peacekeepers were accused of raping and fathering Haitian children before leaving the country, while United Nations troops inadvertently introduced cholera into the county, killing thousands.

Mark Schuller, an associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University and author of “Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti” claimed many of these aid workers came after the earthquake, looking to put a “notch on the humanitarian bedpost,” and have been given a “do-gooder” pass for far too long.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse stated:“ It is not only Oxfam, there are other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the same situation, but they hide the information internally.” He adds, “The Oxfam case is the visible part of the iceberg.”

Moïse has called for broader investigations into aid organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, which also came to the country following its 2010 earthquake.