MSF reveals sex abuse cases as Oxfam scandal takes its toll

A sexual abuse scandal involving an international charity that began with Oxfam spread on Wednesday, as the French group, Doctors without Borders (MSF), revealed it had fired 19 staff last year for harassment or abuse, AFP reports.

The Paris-based group, known by its French acronym MSF, said it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year, of which 40 were allegations of harassment or sexual assault. The group acted on 24 cases by firing 19 employees.

Employing some 40,000 staff around the world, MSF is one of the world’s largest aid groups, best known for its work offering medical aid in conflict zones.

The charity said cases of abuse are steadily rising and many are under-reported.

Oxfam is under fire for the way it handled cases of abuse by some of its aid workers who paid survivors of a 2010 earthquake in Haiti for sex.

The scandal has led to the resignation of Oxfam’s deputy head Penny Lawrence and mounted pressure on its chief executive officer Mark Goldring who, reports said, knew about some cases but failed to act on the allegations.

Addressing a conference in Stockholm, Britain’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said it will stop funding the charity unless it discloses all facts related to the sex scandal.

Last year, the British government had helped the charity with $44 million funding.

Mordaunt said her government wants leaders to lead with moral authority and staff to be held accountable.

Describing the Haiti prostitution allegations horrifying, she said sexual abuse and exploitation is an issue the entire development sector needs to confront.

Mordaunt called for a culture that helps victims and whistle-blowers to come forward without fear.

In the meantime, the damaging disclosures have begun to impact the charity. A spokeswoman on Wednesday said they had received 1,270 cancellations of donations by direct debit between Saturday and Monday against the normal monthly average of 600.

British actress Minnie Driver quit her role as an Oxfam ambassador late on Tuesday, saying she was “devastated” by the charity’s response to the scandal.

Several sponsors and partners of Oxfam including Visa and the retail chain Marks and Spencer are watching the situation.