UK suspends funding for Oxfam over fresh sexual exploitation claims

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BICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: Aid in Oxfam's Emergency Warehouse which is to be shipped to the Philippines to assist the humanitarian crisis following Typhoon Haiya on November 12, 2013 in Bicester, England. Oxfam is initially providing 16 tonnes of aid, with a value of 212,000 GBP, comprising of water, sanitation and emergency shelters. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Allegations of sexual misconduct against staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have prompted the UK to halt aid funding for Oxfam.

The charity confirmed last week that two members of staff in the DRC were suspended as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct.

“All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe.

Given the most recent reports, which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved.” The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said in a statement.

An Oxfam spokesperson said the charity is aware of the FCDO statement and is seeking further information, adding: “The Charity Commission and FCDO have been notified appropriately and we will continue to keep them informed as the investigation concludes its work.”

BICESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 12: Aid in Oxfam’s Emergency Warehouse which is to be shipped to the Philippines to assist the humanitarian crisis following Typhoon Haiya on November 12, 2013 in Bicester, England. Oxfam is initially providing 16 tonnes of aid, with a value of 212,000 GBP, comprising of water, sanitation and emergency shelters. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Oxfam has been active in the DRC since 1961, with its work focused primarily on humanitarian projects such as providing long-term access to clean drinking water.

The Times newspaper reports the allegations against Oxfam staff in the country are outlined in a 10-page letter sent to charity bosses in February.

The letter reportedly details allegations against 11 people and is signed by more than 20 current and former Oxfam staff, with claims ranging from sexual harassment and intimidation to systemic fraud and corruption.

Oxfam has been under the spotlight in recent years after the Charity Commission determined in 2019 it had not fully disclosed allegations staff working in disaster zones had sexually abused children.

In February, strict supervision of Oxfam by the Charity Commission had been lifted after it implemented “significant” reforms prompted by a 2019 report into conduct by its staff after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Oxfam had been receiving some £30 million (35 million euros, $41 million) in state funds annually.

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