Deputy head resigns as Oxfam prostitute scandal widens from Haiti to Africa
The deputy head of charity Oxfam resigned after the scandal around staff paying for a “Caligula orgy” with Haitian prostitutes widened to another continent.
The Britain-based group denied covering up the allegations against Haiti country director Roland van Hauwermeiren, who was tasked with helping the island after a devastating earthquake left the organization in 2011 and admitted to having sex parties at his villa.
But the original report in the Times of London, which said multiple others left along with the director and that there had been a “full-on Caligula orgy” with women in Oxfam shirts, was followed by another report on similar misconduct in Chad.
One staff member was fired for his behavior there in 2006, according to the Guardian, who reported that former staff alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly brought to an Oxfam team house.
At the time van Hauwermeiren was the head of Oxfam in Chad, which had a civil war between 2005 and 2010.
Oxfam said that staff were largely confined to their homes in Chad at the time, and that after the 2011 investigation it made changes including a whistleblowers hotline.
But deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence later stepped down, and said in a statement that she was "ashamed this happened on my watch & I take full responsibility."
She said that concerns about Van Hauwermiren and his team had been raised before his move to Haiti, but that Oxfam "failed to act adequately" upon them.
Winnie Byanyima, who was not at Oxfam during the scandal and became its director in 2013, told Reuters she was deeply hurt by the scandal and that what happened was "a few privileged men abusing the very people they were supposed to protect."
Beyond the damage done to its reputation, and likely its donor base, after the most recent allegations, Oxfam also now finds itself under more scrutiny from the British government after Prime Minister Theresa May urged a “full and urgent investigation.”
The country’s charities watchdog said Oxfam did not give details about exact allegations when it reported on the Haiti scandal.
The French charity Action Against Hunger said that van Hauvermeiren was hired for a project in Bangladesh after someone at Oxfam sent a reference.
Britain’s Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, due to meet with Oxfam leaders on Monday, said that the group could lose the funding it gets from the government if it does not show “moral leadership.”