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Oxfam head apologizes for sexually exploitation of Haiti quake victims

MARK GOLDRING
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP
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7,000 people have cancelled donations to international aid group

The chief executive of the international aid organization Oxfam apologized to Members of Parliament in the aftermath of revelations that his staff sexually exploited victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Responding to questioning from a Parliament committee, Mark Goldring said that Oxfam had lost 7,000 donors since news that staff had hired prostitutes while in Port of Prince to administer aid after the catastrophic earthquake left over 100,000 dead.

Goldring said that there had been 26 new reports of sexual misconduct since the scandal broke, according to a report in the Guardian.

“We really want people to come forward wherever they are and whenever this happened,” he said.

“I am sorry, we are sorry, for the damage Oxfam has done both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support,” Goldring said.

Under questioning, Goldring insisted that none of the sex workers hired by his staff were under age.

“Our investigation included trying to speak to the women involved … and it interviewed as many of the women as it could trace. In those interviews, the women were asked their age and no evidence arose they were under 18,” he said.

Conservative Member of Parliament Pauline Latham took Goldring to task for his organization’s treatment of vulnerable women.

“Prostitutes are victims, they are not doing it because they want to be prostitutes,” Latham said. “These poor girls have had a natural disaster. You as an organization, along with others, go in there promising to help. These are pretty vulnerable women and girls, looking for Oxfam to get them through this terrible situation. You are dealing with these women and girls as if they are just trinkets and you can pay for them, give them a bit of aid, and that’s OK.”

Founded in 1942 by a group of British Quakers, Oxfam is today a confederation of 19 charitable organizations whose stated mission is to alleviate global poverty. In addition to providing famine relief in crisis spots around the world, the group has lobbied for fair trade policies to help poor farmers compete in global markets.

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