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Haiti Suspends Oxfam Operations

Oxfam International Regional Director for Latin America, Simon Ticehurst, meets with Haiti's Minister of Planning and External Cooperation Aviol Fleurant in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 22, 2018

The Haitian government Thursday suspended the operations of the British charity Oxfam in the country pending the outcome of an investigation into employees' alleged sexual exploitation of Haitians after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake.

Planning and External Cooperation Minister Aviol Fleurant said the charity committed a "serious error" when it failed to inform Haitian authorities about the alleged misconduct. Fleurant said a decision about when or if Oxfam will resume operations in Haiti will be made in about two months.

The government issued a statement saying, "These reprehensible acts, alleged crimes, acknowledged by the perpetrators as well as the NGO [non-governmental organization], are a serious violation of the dignity of the Haitian people."

The suspension comes two days after Oxfam Chief Executive Officer Mark Goldring said the organization was investigating 26 new cases of sexual misconduct involving the charity's international operation.

Goldring's revelation was made as legislators questioned him over the alleged use of prostitutes in Haiti after the earthquake. An Oxfam report released Monday into the behavior of aid workers sent to Haiti revealed seven of them were accused of using prostitutes at an Oxfam-funded home and three of them physically threatened a witness in the investigation.

Four staff members were fired for gross misconduct and Oxfam's director for Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, and two others were allowed to resign.

Goldring apologized to the lawmakers on behalf of Oxfam and said the charity would launch its own investigation into abuses in the foreign aid sector. Last week, the charity formally apologized to Haiti and announced a plan to combat sexual abuse, including a new vetting system for potential employees.

Allegations of sexual misconduct have rattled the aid sector, prompting Britain and the European Union to review funding for Oxfam, one of the world's largest disaster relief charities. Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has called for investigations of other charitable organizations as well.