The Times‘ scoop that Oxfam put its reputation ahead of the needs of the people it purports to save is a cracker. Oxfam staffers saw in people’s pain and destitution a chance to abuse and debase Haitians. The numbers around the January 2010 earthquake are staggering: 220,000 lives lost; 300,000 injured; 1.5 million people destitute. Oxfam arrived on the seen. It’s 230 staff had a mission to help. The senior staffers also had money, the backing of the British state and the power that brings. A whistleblower spoke out:
“The group lived in a guesthouse rented by Oxfam that they called the ‘pink apartments’ — they called it ‘the whorehouse’. They were throwing big parties with prostitutes. These girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts, running around half-naked, it was a like a full-on Caligula orgy. It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party there were at least five girls and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.”
The charity is in full panic mode. Exposed as complicit in morally despicable and criminal acts (prostitution is illegal in Haiti) including the allegation of sex with underage women – which should be called out for what it is: child rape – chief executive Mark Goldring told staff that The Times report “very, very hard to read”. The truth for those who wanted it hidden, as is alleged, often is.
Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s top man in Haiti who bought women, was afforded a “phased and dignified exit”. No blemish on his CV was recorded, doubtless helping him secure a job running a charity in Bangladesh. Three other senior staffers were sacked. No word on their resumes, neither. Oxfam covered up the sleaze.
On September 5, 2011, “Oxfam issued a press statement reporting that a small number of staff had been ‘involved in a number of instances of misconduct’“. Misconduct? “It stressed that it “was not related to fraud and did not affect the approximately US$ 98 million Oxfam fundraised following the earthquake in Haiti”. Phew! Just using the money to have sex with the vulnerable and dispossessed you’re rode into town to help. So long as you’re investing in the local economy and not stealing it.
You wonder who was being helped? Libby Purves writes:
We are the West, we know best! It is no surprise that last year Haiti banned 257 NGOs for being, as the minister Aviol Fleurant put it, “disconnected from the priorities and needs of the Haitian people”.
He’s not wrong. In 2011, Oxfam quoted Roland Van Hauwermeiren, country director for Oxfam in Haiti:
“Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities and have not effectively coordinated amongst themselves or worked with the Haitian government…
“If Haitians are to support themselves then the reconstruction effort must also give priority to helping people earn a living. Above all else, Haitians want to get back to work and provide for their families.”
Ah, yes, think of the children.