LONDON, 8 April 2021 – The United Kingdom has suspended aid funding to the international charity, Oxfam after fresh allegations of sexual exploitation against its staff in DR Congo.
Two Oxfam workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were suspended last week for their suspected roles in sexual exploitation and bullying.
Oxfam had only been allowed to start applying for aid funds from the UK in March 2021 following a three-year ban after it was accused in 2018 for a cover-up of sexual exploitation by its staff in Haiti.
The Haiti allegations only surfaced in 2018, eight years after the unethical behavior occurred in 2010 while the Oxfam staff accused were working to assist victims of the devasgtating earthquake in Haiti.
Oxfam later apologized for the delay in releasing a report on the allegations, denying that it was part of a cover-up.
The DR Congo allegations include fraud and nepotism and were brought to the attention of Oxfam leadership in a petition letter by current and former Oxfam staff.
The whistleblowers alleged sexual exploitation, bullying, fraud and nepotism against eleven people.
The petition delivered last February apparently triggered further bullying against some of the whistleblowers who reportedly faced “threats to their lives” for reporting the matter.
Some of the professional misconduct in DR Congo reported in the petition letter dated back to 2015.
In an article published late last month, the Times newspaper cited whistleblowers who expressed regret at Oxfam’s sluggishness in finalizing a probe into the matter.
“We are acutely aware of our duty to survivors, including in supporting them to speak out safely,” Oxfam said in a statement issued last week.
The charity pledged to “conclude the investigation fairly, safely and effectively”.
In suspending Oxfam, the UK Foreign and Development Office said the international charity would not be able to make any applications for UK aid money until the new allegations were resolved.
“All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe,” a spokesperson said.
The recent reports “call into question” Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, the spokesperson added.
Oxfam said its suspensions of the two members of staff showed “our commitment to tackle abuses of power”.