Most people were horrified when national newspapers published allegations of sexual exploitation by Oxfam workers in Haiti. Members of the public have cancelled direct debits, and the allegations will likely tarnish Oxfam’s future announcements. In addition, with Oxfam trying to show transparency by publishing internal reports from Haiti, new admissions are expected.
These are allegations of an abuse of power, of exploitation. Even now, in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, the Chief Executive of Oxfam, Mark Goldring thought the level of criticism of these alleged actions was too high. He asked, “what did we do… murder babies in their cots?” He continued, “Certainly the scale and intensity of the attacks feels out of proportion to the level of culpability.” Of course, a few days later he retracted this statement, but there is almost no doubt his resignation will break headlines in the coming weeks.
We must hold Oxfam and any other charity caught up in the scandal accountable for their failure to protect the people they are seemingly helping. However, this is not the time to adopt the whimsical judgements of the Twitter mob and abandon the entire charity as Oxfam ambassadors Minnie Driver and Desmond Tutu have done, along with many of the general public. By withholding their support and donations people are almost putting a degree of blame on the poor and underprivileged people they once wanted to help.
This is the time for people to take a more rational approach, as championed by the actor and Oxfam ambassador Simon Pegg. When questioned about his support for the charity he highlighted we cannot blame an entire organisation for the actions of a few “morally reprehensible people”. There must be an investigation, and new regulations introduced to prevent abuses of power in the future. If true, we must punish the people who committed these alleged actions. Now is not the time to forget who will lose out. Now is the time to remember the people charities are supposed to help, and stand up for them.