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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Former Oxfam worker reported three cases of sexual misconduct in one day

Helen Evans said allegations made against staff in Haiti were not an “isolated incident”

Oxfam has been accused of covering up sexual misconduct by its aidworkers. Simon Dawson/ Reuters
Oxfam has been accused of covering up sexual misconduct by its aidworkers. Simon Dawson/ Reuters

Oxfam’s former global head of safeguarding has revealed she reported as many as three complaints of sexual misconduct made against the charity’s overseas staff in one day.

Helen Evans said there two cases of women being coerced into sex in exchange for aid and one case of an Oxfam staff member who had not disclosed that he had been struck off for sexual abuse.

The whistle-blower told Channel 4 news: "There was one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn't disclosed that, and we were then concerned about what he might be doing, and that was three allegations in one day."

Ms Evans said claims made against the Oxfam’s staff in Haiti were not an “isolated incident” and allegations had flooded in once the charity had improved its mechanisms for reporting abuse.

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Her testimony comes as the UK’s charity commission opened an inquiry on Tuesday into allegations of misconduct by the charity’s aid workers during a humanitarian relief mission in 2011 amid threats by the British government to cut funding to its projects.

A report by British newspaper The Times published last week claimed Oxfam had tried to cover up the findings of an inquiry, which discovered that its staff had been paying prostitutes for sex in the earthquake-hit country.

The newspaper said the international charity, which is headquartered in Oxford, UK, had dismissed four members of staff involved, while allowing three others to resign before the internal investigation had concluded.

Oxfam’s Haiti director in Haiti Roland van Hauwermeiren, who admitted using prostitutes at an Oxfam villa, was one of the three staff members allowed to resign.

On Tuesday, Mr Van Hauwermeiren was accused of sexual misconduct while working at another British charity in Liberia in 2004.

A former colleague of the disgraced 68-year-old told news site IRIN that Mr Van Hauwermeiren was dismissed from his job Liberia country director for UK charity Merlin following an investigation into use of sex workers by its staff in the West African country.

The scandal has already claimed the scalp of Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence, who resigned on Monday saying she took full responsibility for what had happened during her time at the charity and apologised for “harm and distress” caused.

An Oxfam spokesperson responded to Ms Evans’ claims, saying: "We regret that we did not act on Helen's concerns much quicker and with more resources."

Meanwhile, Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise called the abuse by charity workers in his country “an extremely serious violation of human dignity”.

Writing in French on Twitter, Mr Moise 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,” he said.

"What happened with Oxfam in Haiti is an extremely serious violation of human dignity.”

Updated: February 13, 2018 05:27 PM

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