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Haiti permanently bans scandal-hit Oxfam charity

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By Agence France-Presse

The Haitian government said Wednesday it has permanently banned international charity Oxfam Great Britain from operating in the country following a scandal over sexual misconduct by some of its workers there.

A government statement said the action — which followed a temporary suspension in February — was taken because of Oxfam’s “violation of Haitian legislation and serious breach of the principle” of human dignity.

“The NGO is therefore declared persona non grata,” Aviol Fleurant, minister of planning and external cooperation, said Wednesday at a press briefing also attended by the communications and interior ministers.

He said a draft law was being prepared to provide closer control over, and coordination with, the many foreign charities operating in poverty-stricken Haiti.

Oxfam, which had been present in Haiti since 1978, greatly increased its presence there following the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, as did scores of other nongovernmental organizations.

But a 2011 Oxfam report, made public this year, said the group’s then-country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, had admitted paying for sex and that three staff members had physically threatened a witness.

Four Oxfam employees were fired for “gross misconduct” and three others, including Van Hauwermeiren, were allowed to quit.

Oxfam Great Britain chief executive Mark Goldring announced his resignation last month, saying that someone else should help “rebuild” the group following the scandal in Haiti.

Oxfam Great Britain, part of Oxfam International, saw its funding plummet amid the damaging revelations.

The scandal sparked additional claims about aid workers in Chad, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines, prompting Oxfam to launch a global action plan against sexual harassment and abuse. (AFP)