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Oxfam Workers Accused Of Sexually Exploiting Haiti Quake Survivors

Feb 13, 2018
Originally published on February 13, 2018 8:43 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Oxfam was one of many international aid groups that swept into Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. In recent days, though, reports have revealed that several Oxfam workers sexually exploited earthquake survivors and that the group's leaders have known about this for years and did not share the information with the Haitian government or with the public. Now Haiti's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Bocchit Edmond, wants to pursue criminal charges against those involved. Ambassador Edmond is with us now from London.

Thanks so much for being with us, Ambassador.

BOCCHIT EDMOND: It's a pleasure to be with you.

MARTIN: And just a warning to our listeners - this conversation might not be suitable for younger listeners because of the nature of it. To be clear, we are talking about Oxfam employees hiring vulnerable Haitian women as prostitutes. You have also said that underage girls may have been involved. What more can you tell us about the scope of what Oxfam workers did?

EDMOND: Yes, absolutely. I need to make a precision (ph) for you - not only Oxfam employees but the - it was, possibly, the country director - I mean, the No. 1 Oxfam representative in Haiti.

MARTIN: The - so the top official from London.

EDMOND: The top official of...

MARTIN: Of the organization.

EDMOND: I mean, of course it is - he's a citizen from Belgium, but he was working for Oxfam in Haiti as a director of the - as the country director. That means the No. 1 Oxfam in Haiti.

MARTIN: So this was happening from the top.

EDMOND: Yes.

MARTIN: You have been quoted as saying Haiti could seek additional legal action against Oxfam. What would that look like?

EDMOND: I don't - I probably - I didn't - someone misunderstood me. I did not say that we will be seeking legal actions against Oxfam. But what I can confirm to you - my government is willing and is about to take legal actions against those who perpetuated those acts. That means possibly Mr. van Hauwermeiren and all the accomplices. So therefore, it's very important. And this is a case we are not going to take it lightly, like this. And we are very serious about it. We believe an example has to be set because...

MARTIN: So you...

EDMOND: ...This has been a culture of cover up in our view. And that's one of the reasons we are so determined to take action.

MARTIN: So you're going to pursue legal action against the individuals who perpetrated...

EDMOND: Yes.

MARTIN: ...These potential crimes.

EDMOND: Absolutely.

MARTIN: But does the organization itself, Oxfam, not bear any responsibility?

EDMOND: Absolutely. They do bear some more responsibility because an investigation was done, and the result showed exactly those people committed a crime. And the report was made to the headquarters in London, and they know what happened. And they even said one of the reasons they did not report them to the Haitian authorities - because they believe nothing would have been done, which we consider as an insult to our country and to the victims because even though the situation was not so easy after the earthquake, but - the state of Haiti does not stop to exist.

Law enforcement was there. So the fact that they failed to report the findings of the investigation to the local authorities and even they failed to (inaudible) report it to the British authorities and we believe it was a cover up, and so they have to be denounced.

MARTIN: OK. Bocchit Edmond is Haiti's ambassador to the United Kingdom. He joined us from London over Skype.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for your time this morning.

EDMOND: It's a pleasure to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.