Recent allegations of sexual exploitation against Oxfam’s aid workers in Haiti have extended an investigation about the abuse of power by aid workers. New reports show that former Oxfam country director in Haiti, Ronald van Hauwermeiren, the man in the forefront of the allegations, had a past of exploiting women in the countries he worked in, according to IRIN.
Reports claim that Oxfam knew about incidents after the earthquake in Haiti but chose to cover them up or allowed accused aid workers to resign without any disciplinary action and say there has been a prevalent culture of sexual abuse in the organization until at least 2015, according to The Washington Post.
Van Hauwermeiren is accused of using prostitutes in a house rented with charitable funds in 2011 along with six other aid workers. Oxfam allowed him to resign without any disciplinary action on the basis that he fully cooperate with the investigation. The other aid workers left the organization after an internal investigation claimed they were engaged in general “misconduct.”
Van Hauwermeiren has worked for numerous organizations in different countries from Chad, Haiti, Bangladesh, and Liberia. In 2004, while working with a British NGO in Liberia, he was accused of organizing sex parties with local women. He was let go but recruited by Oxfam two years later, according to The Guardian.
These allegations have caused the public to question the integrity of Oxfam. It is under threat of losing British government funding and could also lose its right to operate in Haiti, according to Reuters. Jovenel Moise, Haiti’s current president, called this issue a “ serious violation of human dignity.”
Penny Mordaunt, Oxfam’s international development secretary, has resigned because of these allegations and is meeting with a national crime agency in the U.K.
Oxfam’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, released a statement to address the allegations of misconduct.
“A few privileged men who had the opportunity to serve Oxfam were abusing the very people they were meant to protect. They let down our organization. They betrayed the trust of our supporters. They betrayed the trust of the governments that allow us to come in to respond and to support their people. It is painful. It is unacceptable behavior.”
Watch the video statement here.