What Is the British Charity Oxfam Sex Scandal? Can Oxfam Recover?

The Oxfam sex scandal sent shock waves across the globe. Can charities exploit the people they claim to help? The organization is being questioned for its integrity, and important people are now being targeted. What exactly happened? Here’s what you need to know.

Oxfam is a charitable company known for its special causes. Now, its name is muddled and no matter how many apologies CEO Mark Goldring makes, many are now seeing it as a disgrace.

What Is Oxfam?

Oxfam is the abbreviation of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. It was founded by a cluster non-governmental organizations in Britain in the early ’40s.

It fought to have food supplies sent to Greece during World War II, and came a long way in helping people in dire need of basic necessities.

As they say, with power comes responsibility, and after it was revealed that Oxfam staff used Haitian sex-workers, many are questioning the organization’s integrity. 

Haiti Earthquake

The devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti left many people helpless, and Oxfam came to the rescue.

They set up relief funds for the needy, but after headlines read that some of the charity workers took advantage of Haitian women, the charity’s good deeds are now being overlooked. 

Former Oxfam Haiti director Roland van Hauwermeiren was reportedly at the center of the scandal. While working to aid the country during the calamity, van Hauwermeiren is accused of hosting sex-parties with the local women.

In his defense, the former aid worker said, “A lot of people, including the international media, will be blushing when they hear my version of the facts.” 

He continued, “But I’ve also read a lot of lies and exaggerations. Parties every week? Chic villas? Women paid with money from the organisation?”

The investigation began in 2011. But van Hauwermeiren stepped down from his position before it was finished. Following which, four other staff members were fired.

How It Affected Oxfam

The scandal not only had many other organizations who worked alongside Oxfam and its staff to sever ties, it also brought about a radical change in the way the public perceived the charity.

Since the news caught everyone’s attention, it was reported that there were more than 26 cases of sexual misconduct. Of them, over 61% were internationally related.

Mark Goldring apologized for the 2011 incident. He added that Oxfam interviewed many of the Haitian women, and there was no evidence that any were under 18, the country’s legal age.

Goldring said thousands of people rejected or withdrew their donations since the news broke out. It was calculated that up to 7,000 individual donors severed connections with the organization.

In response to the news, after apologizing for the behavior of nine of his staff members, Goldring said that they “set up a safeguarding team” responsible for quality reporting.

The news not only affected one of the U.K.’s biggest charities, but aid charities on the whole. How can people trust that not all charities have similar histories of wrongdoing? 

Some sources report more than 2,000 people changed the way that they now look at their charities.

Oxfam Officials Questioned By Government Committee

Oxfam Officials Questioned By Government Committee (Photo: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood/Staff)

Will the Situation Change with New Leadership?

UK government’s former international development secretary, Priti Patel said in an interview that there needs to be a change in the organization’s leadership in order to rise above the scandal. 

She mentioned the lack of leadership in this case, and that the company that looks at helping women and girls has “utterly failed.”

Nonetheless, she wants people to look towards the future.

Watch Mark Goldring’s apology video below:


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