UK stops funding charity group Oxfam over new sexual exploitation claims

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The UK government has halted aid funding for the independent charitable organization Oxfam following allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying committed by its staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The charity confirmed last week that two members of staff in the DRC were suspended as part of an on-going investigation into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct.

The group had served a three-year ban after a cover-up of sexual exploitation by staff in Haiti came to light in 2018 and had only been allowed to start reapplying for aid funds in March.

The Foreign and Development Office (FCDO) said Oxfam would not be able to make any applications for UK aid money until the new allegations were resolved.

“All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe,” a spokesman said.

“Given the most recent reports, which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved,” he added.

An Oxfam spokesperson said the charity was aware of the statement and was seeking further information, adding: “The Charity Commission and FCDO have been notified appropriately and we will continue to keep them informed as the investigation concludes its work.”

Oxfam has been active in the DRC since 1961, with its work focused primarily on humanitarian projects such as providing long-term access to clean drinking water.

Oxfam said its suspensions of the two members of staff showed “our commitment to tackle abuses of power”.

Last week the charity revealed it had suspended the two workers in the DRC as part of an investigation set up in November. But the Times – which revealed the original scandal in 2018 – said whistleblowers were “frustrated” at the speed of the inquiry.

Current and former Oxfam staff made allegations of sexual exploitation, bullying, fraud and nepotism against 11 people in a letter send to the charity’s leadership in February, the paper said.

Some of these complaints dated back to 2015.

After claims that staff sexually exploited survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake were revealed in 2018, the Charity Commission concluded Oxfam had a “culture of poor behaviour” and was issued with a warning over its “mismanagement”.

With thousands of people cancelling their regular donations and the government suspending its funding of the charity, Oxfam had to make £16m of cuts. (Source: BBC)

 

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