5 Things You Need To Know About The Oxfam Sex Scandal

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Oxfam, one of the best-known charities in Britain, has barely left the headlines over the last few days following allegations of sexual misconduct by its aid workers. Here's what you need to know if the story, which is being referred to as a sex scandal, has so far passed you by.

What is being alleged?

In an investigation by The Times newspaper last week, it was revealed that Oxfam aid workers working in Haiti had paid to use sex workers, some of them teenage girls, following the country's devastating earthquake in January 2010. The age of consent in Haiti is 18 but witnesses claimed that many of the girls were younger and were procured by local drivers who were bullied into it.
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Separate reports in the Observer this weekend alleged that Oxfam staff had also paid sex workers in Chad in the mid 2000s. Former Oxfam staff who worked in Chad claimed that women believed to be sex workers were often invited to the charity's team house and that a senior staff member was fired for his behaviour in 2006.
The anonymous former staffer told the paper: “I have so much respect for Oxfam. They do great work, but this is a sector-wide problem."
One of the men, Roland van Hauwermeiren, the charity's head in Chad in 2006, was linked to the subsequent Haiti sex scandal and resigned from the charity in 2011 after admitting to inviting sex workers to his Haitian villa.

The charity dealt with the allegations in secret

Oxfam carried out an internal investigation into the Haiti allegations in 2011 when the concerns first came to its attention. Four people were sacked and three more resigned, including the Haiti country director, but the charity managed to keep the incident out of the public eye until now.
The scandal has only come to light because of The Times, which interviewed whistleblowers from inside the charity and a “confidential” internal report on the investigation. Critics are accusing Oxfam of trying to cover up the findings of the inquiry.

Its deputy chief executive has resigned

Oxfam has denied a cover-up but the charity's deputy chief executive today resigned over the scandal. Penny Lawrence, who was international programmes director when the Haiti allegations were reported, said she was "ashamed" it happened on her watch and that she took "full responsibility".
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Chief executive Mark Goldring admitted that the stories that came out over the weekend "suggested people did report concerns in Chad and Haiti which were not properly acted on at the time.”
Oxfam has postponed an event which was due to take place as part of London Fashion Week on Thursday. A charity spokesperson said on Radio 4's World at One that it didn't think it was "the right time" for the "Fashion Fighting Poverty" event.

The charity's funding hangs in the balance

This morning, senior Oxfam staff met with the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, who threatened to withdraw the charity's public funding (worth £32m in the last financial year). She said her priority was "to keep the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people safe from harm" and that it was "utterly despicable that sexual exploitation and abuse continues to exist in the aid sector".
The government is working with the international community via the United Nations to stamp out the problem, she added. However, many Conservatives have seized on the scandal to argue that the government should reduce the amount it spends on international aid.

How will Oxfam ensure this doesn't happen again?

Ahead of its meeting with the government earlier today, Oxfam announced new measures to prevent and better deal with cases of sexual abuse. Caroline Thomson, the charity's chair of trustees, said it had hired a consultant earlier this year to "promote and enforce a positive culture right through all of our workforce and drive out unacceptable behaviour", and that it would strengthen its vetting of staff and mandatory safeguarding training for new employees.
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