By: Emmanuel Roy
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti – Aviol Fleurant, Haiti’s minister of planning and external cooperation announced the suspension of Oxfam, a British charity that has been operating in Haiti for several decades. Oxfam is embroiled in a sex scandal possibly involving underage Haitian girls who were allegedly paid for sex. In 2011, several members of Oxfam’s staff in Haiti including its national director ROLAND VAN HAUWERMEIREN reportedly hired underage prostitutes for sex parties inside staff housing in Port-Au-Prince. Mr. VAN HAUWERMEIREN was accused of similar crimes in Chad in 2006 before being appointed Oxfam’s country director in Haiti.
Oxfam executives had been aware of the allegations since 2011 but did not report it to the Haitian government or British officials until February 2018. Oxfam released the report of its investigation into the incident only after the London Times published an article early in February reporting that Mr. VAN HAUWERMEIREN was one of seven staff members engaged in hiring Haitian prostitutes for sex parties.
Oxfam officials claimed that they had shared the findings of their inquiry with the British Government in 2018. It took Oxfam six years to investigate the incident further jeopardizing the lives and safety of the Haitian women involved. Oxfam’s decision to cover-up what happened raises several questions: why did Oxfam’s officials fail to report the incident to the Haitian government back in 2011? Why did it take Oxfam six years to investigate its staff? Why did Oxfam hire Mr. VAN HAUWERMEIREN as the Oxfam director in Haiti knowing his proclivity for committing sex crimes? Why did Oxfam fail to report the incident in 2011 to the British government?
It appears that Oxfam is knee-deep in a cover-up, and if that proved to be the case, all branches of Oxfam should be barred from ever operating in Haiti again. Oxfam International released a statement late last week stating that “it was committed to cooperate with the investigation.” The Haitian government has suspended the British branch of Oxfam for two months. But, Oxfam Italy, Quebec and Spain continue to operate in Haiti. Minister Fleurant told Reuters that officials are trying to determine whether any of the women were underage. Regardless whether these women were underage, prostitution is illegal in Haiti, and hiring prostitutes is still a crime.
The British government has suspended funding to Oxfam and is conducting its own investigation into the matter. Oxfam’s Executive Director resigned late last week after revelation surfaced that he knew Mr. VAN HAUWERMEIREN had been accused of a similar allegation in Chad in 2006, and yet promoted him, and sent him to Haiti. President Jovenel Moise in a statement to Reuters said that the sex scandal involving Oxfam was just the “tip of the iceberg” and that a broader investigation into aid organizations was needed.
What is needed is not just simply a broader investigation into Oxfam. Haiti needs policies and procedures regulating the operation of aid organizations. After the earthquake thousands of aid organizations descended on Haiti masquerading as do-gooders, meanwhile abusing the very people they claim to be helping. Aid organizations had been given carte blanche to operate without supervision and accountability engaging in crimes, abusing women, children, and the Haitian staff that work for them.
In 2012 United Nations peacekeepers negligently introduced cholera to Haiti, causing the death of thousands of Haitians. A year later, seven peacekeepers were accused of raping a young boy. Others have been accused of soliciting underage girls for sex. Why do we continue tolerating these criminals is beyond us. It is time Haiti shows responsibility and dignity by jailing those who violate its laws, abuse of its women and children.