So, it appears the British charity Oxfam is in crisis after UK Government ministers threatened to axe funding if it is unable to account for the way it handled a series of claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers.
The sad thing is I suspect the disgraceful behaviour of some Oxfam staff is merely the tip of a very sleazy iceberg in a sea of misery and heartache where charities and NGOs operate.
I used to think the proliferation of brothels in the Afghan capital Kabul – said to number more than mosques – was a direct result of the US military, but perhaps I’ve done the soldiers a disservice because there is also a huge presence of charities operating in and around Afghanistan.
Call me naive, but I thought charity workers were a good-hearted bunch of individuals who operated in horrendous conditions caused by war, famine, natural and man-made disasters. The revelations about Oxfam is probably the most shocking story from the weekend’s newspapers as more details are emerging about the charity workers who used the services of prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.
Giving money to charity is something the British people do particularly well especially from the Muslim communities. Sadly it has become a nightmare these days trying to work out if our donations go to where we want them to go.
All I would say is make it your duty to try and find out if the charity you are donating money to has a proven track record of reliability and trust. In truth, I’m really not sure how Oxfam and other charities like it are going to convince us they can be trusted at the moment. Transparency is key and if some charities are becoming a magnet for sexual predators and paedophiles then we need to know.
The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, will meet Oxfam officials on Monday as a priority to learn more about the embarrassing details in a growing scandal in which the minister has already accused the charity of failing in its “moral leadership.”
Oxfam now says it has introduced new measures for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse cases. Why doesn’t it simply tell staff to keep their pants on during working hours and employing the services of prostitutes is a sackable offence.
Apart from the vulnerable who’ve been horribly exploited by these sex pests, I feel terribly sorry for anyone working in the charitable sector who will undoubtedly suffer because of the actions of these reprehensible people.
During a BBC interview on Sunday, Mordaunt revealed she had written to other organisations funded by Department for International Development (DfID) urging them to report any safeguarding issues, past or present, and pledged they would all be followed up.
Hopefully Oxfam will also learn a lesson from this sordid episode as criticism mounts over its handling of the scandal emanating from Haiti which had just encountered a devastating earthquake. Oxfam’s investigation led to four being sacked and three others resigning including the country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren.
Mordaunt has described the episode as “a complete betrayal of both the people Oxfam were there to help and also the people that sent them there to do that job” and criticised Oxfam for doing “the wrong thing” by not reporting the detail of the allegations. She then added no organisation could be a government partner if it did not “have the moral leadership to do the right thing”.
This will be a huge blow to Oxfam which received £32 million in the last financial year from the UK Government.
There are now fresh allegations in the London-based Observer newspaper of further prostitute allegations surrounding Oxfam staff from its mission in Chad – also led by Mr van Hauwermeiren back in 2006. The Sunday Times has revealed that more than 120 workers from UK charities were accused of sexual abuse in 2017.
Former DfID minister Priti Patel has revealed she was aware of a wider issue of sexual abuse and child exploitation from when her time as DfID. She told Radio 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics there was “a culture of denial in the aid sector about the exploitation and sexual abuse that has taken place historically for decades” and called for a database for “predatory paedophiles” who she claimed could be infiltrating the organisations.
Sadly, as I said before, I’ve a feeling this is only the tip of the iceberg and more sex and sleaze scandals will emerge from the charity sector over the coming weeks. The British media has started digging, as it does so well when there’s a whiff of more scandal to come, so brace yourself for even more unsavoury revelations.
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