Médecins Sans Frontières fired 19 employees in past year

  • Aid group Médecins Sans Frontières has investigated claims of harassment 
  • It received 146 complaints and 40 of them related to harassment or sex abuse
  • The organisation, known as Doctors Without Borders in the UK, fired 19 people

By Abe Hawken For Mailonline

Published: 11:03 EST, 14 February 2018 | Updated: 12:20 EST, 14 February 2018

International humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières has fired 19 employees in the past year after investigating harassment or sex abuse. 

The Paris-based aid group, known as Doctors Without Borders in the UK, said it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year and ended up sacking 19 staff members.

It said: 'Forty cases were identified as cases of abuse or harassment following an internal investigation, of which 24 were cases of harassment or sexual abuse.'

The revelation comes as British charity Oxfam faces a storm over its handling of a sex scandal in Haiti.

The aid group revealed it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year and ended up sacking 19 staff members
The aid group revealed it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year and ended up sacking 19 staff members

The aid group revealed it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year and ended up sacking 19 staff members

The aid group Médecins Sans Frontières has fired 19 employees in the past year after investigating claims of harassment and sexual abuse 
The aid group Médecins Sans Frontières has fired 19 employees in the past year after investigating claims of harassment and sexual abuse 

The aid group Médecins Sans Frontières has fired 19 employees in the past year after investigating claims of harassment and sexual abuse 

With 40,000 staff around the world, MSF is one of the world's largest aid groups, best known for its work offering medical aid in conflict zones. The charity won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. 

It added that other employees were handed disciplinary measures or were suspended. 

The group also warned that the true figure could be higher as the 24 does not include cases reported to MSF teams on the ground that may not have been signalled to head office.

The charity added: 'Even though reports of abuse have steadily increased, MSF is aware that abuse goes under-reported.'

The revelations from the French group came as Oxfam grapples with allegations that some of its staff used prostitutes in Haiti following a devastating 2010 earthquake. 

Oxfam's aid chief Roland van Hauwermeiren was recruited by the charity to lead a team in Chad, central Africa, where he was accused of cavorting with prostitutes in 2006.

But bosses turned a blind eye and he was in charge of the charity's response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in the Caribbean almost eight years ago. 

According to an investigation the following year, he admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa - the Eagle's Nest - rented for him by Oxfam.   

The charity now faces a devastating backlash from sponsors, celebrities and donors after reports emerged of its aid workers using prostitutes.

The shocking revelation comes as British charity Oxfam faces a storm over its handling of a sex scandal
The shocking revelation comes as British charity Oxfam faces a storm over its handling of a sex scandal

The shocking revelation comes as British charity Oxfam faces a storm over its handling of a sex scandal

According to an investigation, Roland van Hauwermeiren (pictured) admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa while working in Haiti for Oxfam 
According to an investigation, Roland van Hauwermeiren (pictured) admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa while working in Haiti for Oxfam 

According to an investigation, Roland van Hauwermeiren (pictured) admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa while working in Haiti for Oxfam 

Major companies have said they would review their relationship with the charity because of its failure to protect the vulnerable. 

Visa and Marks & Spencer both spoke out against 'abhorrent' and 'deeply concerning' behaviour by Oxfam staff.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme has threatened to stop its children working in the charity's shops following allegations of abuse across its store network.

And more than 1,200 people have cancelled their monthly donations to Oxfam after reports emerged of its aid workers using prostitutes. 

The Charity Commission launched its formal inquiry into the sex scandal engulfing the charity on Wednesday. 

The scandal also led to the resignation of Oxfam's deputy head and has thrown into question British government funding for the charity, which amounted to around £32 million (36 million euros, $44 million) last year.

Oxfam has denied covering up the scandal but admitted it should have been more transparent. 

Minnie Driver QUITS as Oxfam celebrity ambassador 

Minnie Driver has quit her role as celebrity ambassador for Oxfam in protest at the charity's sex scandal
Minnie Driver has quit her role as celebrity ambassador for Oxfam in protest at the charity's sex scandal

Minnie Driver has quit her role as celebrity ambassador for Oxfam in protest at the charity's sex scandal

Minnie Driver quit her role as an Oxfam global ambassador citing the 'abhorrent mistakes' in relation to the sex scandal.

The 48-year-old actress, who was one of the charity's 16 ambassadors, said she was 'in no uncertain terms' withdrawing her support.

The British star has worked with Oxfam for 20 years, donating a £72,000 lunch date to its 2008 Ebay auction.

'I am nothing short of horrified by the allegations against Oxfam International,' the Good Will Hunting actress said in a statement.    

'In no uncertain terms do I plan to continue my support of this organization or its leaders.

'And though it is unfortunate that after 20 years I am no longer able to advocate and defend through this specific framework, social and economic injustice is more globally prevalent than ever.'

She added that she won't let the ' abhorrent mistakes of a troubling organization' stop her or anyone else from 'working with good people in this space to support a population of human beings around the world that needs our help.'

In a statement to MailOnline, Oxfam said Ms Driver's decision to step down 'saddens us deeply.'

'Minnie Driver has been a devoted Oxfam supporter for many years, and we are grateful for her commitment to ending global poverty,' it said.  

Her decision to step down as an Oxfam Ambassador saddens us deeply, but we also understand and respect her choice.

As an organization, we are ashamed by the actions of some of our former members of staff and are more committed now than ever to learn from our mistakes and ensure we uphold the highest levels of safeguarding standards in our work around the world.'

The 48-year-old actress, who was one of the charity's 16 ambassadors, said in a series of tweets that she was 'devastated' by the Oxfam revelations
The 48-year-old actress, who was one of the charity's 16 ambassadors, said in a series of tweets that she was 'devastated' by the Oxfam revelations

The 48-year-old actress, who was one of the charity's 16 ambassadors, said in a series of tweets that she was 'devastated' by the Oxfam revelations

Oxfam's list of celebrity global ambassadors include Helen Mirren, Coldplay, Desmond Tutu and Bill Nighy. 

The deputy head of the charity resigned on Monday, saying Oxfam had failed to adequately respond to past allegations of sexual misconduct by some staff in Chad and Haiti.

On Friday, the Times reported that some staff who were in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there had paid for sex with prostitutes.

Oxfam has neither confirmed nor denied that specific account but has said an internal investigation in 2011 had confirmed sexual misconduct had occurred.

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise said 'what transpired is a violation of basic human decency' and he would not tolerate support from charities whose staff exploited communities.

'There is nothing more shameful than a sexual predator using the veil of catastrophe as a means to exploit the vulnerable in their most defenceless moments,' he said in a statement. 

A regional Oxfam director and aid workers are alleged to have exploited locals for sex at a luxury apartment block (pictured) in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake
A regional Oxfam director and aid workers are alleged to have exploited locals for sex at a luxury apartment block (pictured) in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake

A regional Oxfam director and aid workers are alleged to have exploited locals for sex at a luxury apartment block (pictured) in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake

Haiti's minister of planning and external cooperation summoned Oxfam representatives to a meeting on Thursday.

'These would be both serious sexual crimes and a crime against development in light of the potential diversion of external assistance for the purpose of illegal criminal activities,' the minister, Aviol Fleurant, said.

Prostitution is a crime in Haiti, but it was not entirely clear what other crimes the Oxfam officials may have committed.

Oxfam officials in Haiti were not immediately available for comment during the country´s carnival holiday.

Aid minister Penny Mordaunt has threatened to withdraw government funding from Oxfam unless it gave the full facts about events in Haiti. She has written to all British charities working overseas to demand that 'they step up and do more, so that we have absolute assurance that the moral leadership, the systems, the culture and the transparency that are needed'.

Britain's Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into whether Oxfam disclosed details about the allegations at the time in 2011 and its handling of the incidents since.

On Tuesday, Oxfam faced fresh pressure on Tuesday after a former senior member of staff said her concerns about 'a culture of sexual abuse' involving aid workers had not been taken seriously by the charity's bosses. 

The British star has worked with Oxfam for 20 years, donating a £72,000 lunch date to its 2008 Ebay auction
The British star has worked with Oxfam for 20 years, donating a £72,000 lunch date to its 2008 Ebay auction

The British star has worked with Oxfam for 20 years, donating a £72,000 lunch date to its 2008 Ebay auction

Helen Evans, Oxfam's former global head of safeguarding, told Channel 4 News that she begged senior staff, ministers and the regulator to act on allegations of sexual abuse allegations.

She also detailed three new allegations made against Oxfam staff overseas in a single day.

Ms Evans, who was in charge of investigating allegations against Oxfam staff members between 2012 and 2015, said abuse cases she had heard of included a woman who had been coerced into having sex in exchange for aid.

Another involved an assault on a teenage volunteer by a staff member in an Oxfam charity shop in Britain, she said.

'There was one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn't disclosed that, and we were then concerned about what he might be doing, and that was three allegations in one day,' she said.

Now, the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme has told Channel 4 News that they are 'reviewing our association' with Oxfam in light of the concerns about the safety of children volunteering in charity shops.

Oxfam aid worker had already been forced out of ANOTHER charity

Roland van Hauwermeiren was recruited by Oxfam 
Roland van Hauwermeiren was recruited by Oxfam 

Roland van Hauwermeiren was recruited by Oxfam 

The Oxfam aid chief at the centre of the Haiti sex scandal was forced out of another UK charity for allegedly using prostitutes in Liberia.

Roland van Hauwermeiren left his job at the medical charity Merlin in 2004 after a colleague claimed he hosted sex parties.

Despite this, he was recruited by Oxfam to lead a team in Chad, where he was accused of cavorting with prostitutes in 2006. Bosses again turned a blind eye and Mr van Hauwermeiren took charge of Oxfam's response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

According to an investigation the following year, he admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa – the Eagle's Nest – rented for him by Oxfam. 

Sources told the Daily Mail yesterday that prostitutes were delivered by pimps. His favourite was said to be a teenager known as Mika, whom he requested regularly.

Neighbours said he 'loved young girls' and that they saw a parade of beautiful teenagers going into his home, in one of the wealthiest areas of Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

'He would bring them here once or twice a week,' said security guard Moliere Moise.

'They were maybe 18, 19 years old. They would pull up on a motorbike and he would meet them at the bottom of the hill. They would talk and he would take them inside. Other times he picked up a girl down the hill on his way home. There's lots of prostitutes around here.'

A cook who used to work at the house said staff were not allowed to stay overnight because he 'liked to be left alone to do his thing'. 

He admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa (pictured) – the Eagle's Nest – rented for him by Oxfam
He admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa (pictured) – the Eagle's Nest – rented for him by Oxfam

He admitted inviting prostitutes to his £1,500-a-month hilltop villa (pictured) – the Eagle's Nest – rented for him by Oxfam

Instead of being dismissed, Mr van Hauwermeiren was allowed a 'phased and dignified exit' and given a month's notice.

The 68-year-old Belgian then became head of mission for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh between 2012 and 2014. The French charity claimed Oxfam did not give them the reason behind his resignation.

Concerns over his behaviour were first raised in 2004 by Amira Malik Miller, a Swedish civil servant.

She made a formal complaint to Merlin, a London-based medical emergency relief charity which has since merged with Save the Children.

An internal investigation found that four male members of the charity's management team had paid for sex in Liberia, where they were helping the population recover from a four-year civil war.

The aid workers had been using Merlin cars to drive sex workers to and from parties at the charity's guest house, investigators found. Mr van Hauwermeiren denied the accusations, but agreed to resign.

Four years later while working for the Swedish government's aid department, Miss Miller realised he was running Oxfam's mission in Chad.

She alerted Per Byman, then humanitarian director of the Swedish national aid agency. The outcome of the complaint is unclear. That year the agency gave Oxfam £540,000 for its work in Chad.

'Oh my God, it has been 14 years,' she told charity website IRIN. 'He just goes around the system – from Liberia to Chad to Haiti to Bangladesh. Someone should have checked properly. 

Sources told the Daily Mail yesterday that prostitutes were delivered to the villa in Haiti (pictured) by pimps
Sources told the Daily Mail yesterday that prostitutes were delivered to the villa in Haiti (pictured) by pimps

Sources told the Daily Mail yesterday that prostitutes were delivered to the villa in Haiti (pictured) by pimps

'The behaviour at that time in Liberia was insane. I think Merlin were a bit worse, but plenty of UN types were doing the same. Lots of sleazy bars, girls on the beach.'

Miss Miller, who worked for Merlin, said she complained to the London office after she found one of her colleagues joking with and fondling a young Liberian woman in the kitchen of their shared house. Immediately, she took him aside and explained she would not going to tolerate sex workers in the house.

From that point, Miss Miller said the atmosphere was 'quite intimidating' because the four senior managers 'constantly had their eye' on her.

The lead investigator claimed Merlin had lacked sufficient proof to pursue a prosecution and that the report from Miss Miller was the first he had heard of claims of misconduct.

However, a third source, an aid worker familiar with the episode, said the head office had already been aware of the allegations.

Save the Children said it was unable to comment on the case as it did not merge with Merlin until 2013, nine years after the incident. The Charity Commission said it has no records for Merlin in 2004 and could not comment on whether it was alerted to the case.

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Merlin at the time of the 2004 allegations, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

An Oxfam spokesman said: 'Roland van Hauwermeiren started working for Oxfam in Chad in April 2006.

'In the time available and 12 years later, we can't find the files relating to his recruitment but our policy at the time was to get two references including the former employer before hiring new staff.

'This case further illustrates the need for a sector wide approach to track individuals guilty of misconduct and why we announced on Sunday a package of measures to strengthen our vetting and recruitment procedures.'


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