Oxfam GB banned permanently from Haiti

The Caribbean state had already temporarily banned the charity from operating there after allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by some staff surfaced

The aftermath of the Haiti earthquake
The aftermath of the Haiti earthquake

Oxfam GB has been banned from operating in Haiti permanently in the wake of revelations about sexual misconduct by the charity’s employees.

The Haitian government’s decision to ban the charity permanently comes in the aftermath of claims that Oxfam employees had used sex workers while in the country after the January 2010 earthquake that left more than 220,000 people dead.

The claims led to the departure of seven members of staff from the charity in 2011, including the country director, who resigned.

Aviol Fleurant, Haiti's minister of planning and external cooperation, said earlier this year that Oxfam had committed a serious error by failing to inform the authorities about the sexual misconduct allegations, and the charity was temporarily banned from the country in February.

That ban has now been made permanent, although the decision applies only to Oxfam GB.

Oxfam will continue to operate in Haiti through its Italian, Spanish and Quebecois affiliate members.

Oxfam’s projects in the Caribbean country help 750,000 people through work on reconstruction and development projects. The population of Haiti is approximately 10 million people.

In a statement, Oxfam said it understood the decision to ban the charity.

"Oxfam is disappointed, but understands the Haiti government’s decision to withdraw Oxfam Great Britain’s permission to work in Haiti," the statement said.

"The behaviour of some former Oxfam staff working in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake was completely unacceptable. We have apologised to the government and the Haitian people for what happened.

"We are committed to continue to do all we can to help the millions of people every year affected by humanitarian disasters and to improve the lives of those living in poverty."

The charity’s statement said that Oxfam had introduced stronger measures to prevent harassment and abuse since 2011, including creating a whistleblowing hotline and a dedicated safeguarding team.

After the claims about its Haiti programme emerged in February, the charity announced a comprehensive plan to strengthen its safeguarding globally.

Oxfam has increased the number of staff and the level of funding for safeguarding, including in Haiti, set up a global database for employee references and established an independent commission to review the charity’s culture and practices, the statement said.

The charity is the subject of a Charity Commission inquiry into its response to events in Haiti in 2011, and Oxfam has withdrawn from bidding for further funding from the UK’s Department for International Development while it reviews its safeguarding policies and practices.

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