Haiti stops Oxfam from working in the country for two months

The government of the Caribbean republic is investigating how the charity handled the case of some staff paying for sex workers in the wake of the 2010 earthquake

The 2010 earthquake
The 2010 earthquake

The Haiti government has suspended Oxfam GB from operating in the country for two months while it investigates how the charity handled the case of former staff paying for sex.

Aviol Fleurant, Haiti's minister of planning and external cooperation, said Oxfam had committed a serious error by failing to inform the authorities that some of its employees had employed sex workers while working in the country after an earthquake in January 2010.

Oxfam GB said in a statement that senior members of staff had met Haitian government officials and "committed to cooperate with their investigation".

The statement added: "Oxfam is committed to putting in place a number of wide-sweeping initiatives to improve its global safeguarding policies and practices, including the establishment of an independent commission and putting more staff and resources into its safeguarding teams."

A spokeswoman for Oxfam GB told Third Sector it had no staff on the ground in Haiti. "We work through other Oxfam affiliates to implement programmes," the spokeswoman said. "We can't give details of impact at this stage because we're currently working through it."

In another development, the former chair of Oxfam GB, Karen Brown, has stepped down as a trustee of the Disasters Emergency Committee and withdrawn from the process of becoming its next chair.

Oxfam is one of 13 member charities of the DEC, through which they jointly respond to disasters.

"I do not want my past involvement with Oxfam – whose work around the world I so much admire – to distract from the important task of the DEC," said Brown, who became a DEC trustee in November 2017 and was due to become chair next month.

"Reluctantly, therefore, I have decided not to take up the role of DEC chair. I continue to have great respect for the work of the DEC and its member agencies, mobilising the UK public and partners to respond to the world’s worst humanitarian disasters."?

Brown was chair of Oxfam GB from October 2011 to October 2017. Her tenure began after the charity's investigation into sexual misconduct in Haiti was concluded.

The DEC said in a statement it "expressed its regret but respects Karen’s decision".

Clive Jones, the DEC’s current chair, will continue in the role until a new chair is appointed.

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