What the biggest aid charities will (and won't) disclose about sexual abuse

What the biggest aid charities will (and won't) disclose about sexual abuse
Copyright REUTERS
By Cristina Abellan Matamoros
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Seven out of 13 aid agencies contacted by Euronews provided 2017 data on sexual harassment or abuse cases by their staff.


The extent of the sexual abuse scandal surrounding international aid organisations is difficult to judge accurately because some of the biggest international charities are unable or unwilling to disclose figures.

Following reports of serious sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers, this month it emerged that staff working for British charity Oxfam were involved in an abuse scandal in Haiti,

Euronews has contacted 13 aid agencies for figures on sexual harassment or abuse cases by staff as well as the number of employees dismissed or who resigned because of the actions.

At the time of writing, only seven aid charities — International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Oxfam GB, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), US-based Mercy Corps, Christian Aid, and Care International — provided data for 2017.

The ICRC revealed in a statement on Friday that more than 20 employees have left the organisation for sexual misconduct since 2015.

ICRC director general, Yves Daccord, said that 21 staff members were dismissed for paying for sexual services or resigned and another two staff did not have their contracts renewed.

"I must also accept that this is a moment of deep humility for us, as we endeavour to assess the scope of this problem and address failings," said Daccord. 

However, no figures on the total number of sexual harassment or abuse complaints received by ICRC were released. 

The announcement was published after an internal review of sexual misconduct at the ICRC.  

A spokesman for Oxfam told Euronews that since the news of the Haiti abuse broke, Oxfam Great Britain received 26 reports of sexual misconduct dating back since 1995. Sixteen related to international programmes. No dismissals have been made yet.

The spokesman said the organisation is working on creating a centralised data-base of all the complaints recorded by national Oxfam affiliates.

As Oxfam faces scrutiny over its handling of a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti and Chad, CARE International released figures on sexual harassment or abuse by staff on Wednesday.

CARE separated their figures into two categories: sexual abuse, and exploitation of community members and sexual harassment within the organisation.

In the first category, CARE said they received 13 sexual abuse or exploitation reports, of which eight were considered "substantiated". As a result, seven people were dismissed and one resigned.

In the second category, the NGO received 15 cases of sexual harassment within the organisation, of which eight were "substantiated". Of the eight cases, four were dismissed and two contracts were not renewed. Of the remaining two staff, one no longer works for CARE.

British charity Christian Aid also released a statement saying it investigated two incidences of sexual misconduct overseas in the past 12 months.

"One investigation led to the dismissal of a staff member, while the other case resulted in disciplinary action (not dismissal)."

The NRC told Euronews it received 17 allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and exploitation globally with five people dismissed as a result.


Mercy Corps investigated 11 allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct globally, a spokeswoman told Euronews. Five contracts were terminated and one received disciplinary action.

Shortly after the Oxfam scandal broke out, MSF quickly revealed that they registered 24 cases of sexual harassment or abuse in field offices in 2017. Two were situations of sexual harassment by MSF staff against non-MSF staff (patients or members of the community) and 19 staff were fired over sexual harassment or abuse.

The British Red Cross disclosed to Euronews that 11 volunteers in the UK had been removed after receiving sexual harassment or abuse allegations.

The charity's spokesman added that no staff member working overseas had been removed for reasons relating to sexual misconduct in the past five years. However, the organisation did not disclose the total number of cases it received pertaining to sexual harassment or abuse by staff or volunteers in 2017 or 2016.

Sexual harassment cases recorded in 2016

Out of the five organisations who provided figures for 2017, only two disclosed figures for 2016.


MSF said it received 29 sexual harassment or abuse cases globally in 2016 and fired 10 staff members because of sexual harassment or abuse in a press release.

NRC told Euronews that it received five allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and exploitation globally. The organisation dismissed three people as a result of these allegations.

CARE International told Euronews that in 2016 they were still working with a decentralised system and didn't have any global figures for that year.

Christian Aid and Mercy Corps declined to comment.

The Christian charity, World Vision, has not returned Euronews request for figures or comment.


However, Euronews found that according to World Vision's 2016 accountability report, the Christian agency investigated a total of 53 sexual harassment or grievance cases and found that 29 were "substantiated".

The report also said that there were 19 incidents involving either harm to a child participating in a World Vision activity or harm to a child caused by a World Vision staff.

Additionally, ten incidents involved either sexual exploitation or abuse of a child involved in one of the charity's activities and there were four recorded cases of workplace sexual harassment according to the report.

There was no mention of how many people were dismissed as a result and the organisation has not returned Euronews' request for comment.

No data provided

Habitat for Humanity sent a statement to Euronews by email saying the organisation had a system in place to allow staff to report or file complaints. The statement said "Habitat takes all reports seriously and works to address concerns raised in a timely manner" but declined to disclose any figures for 2016 or 2017.


Euronews also contacted BRAC and the International Rescue Committee who, at time of writing, did not disclose any figures for 2017 or 2016.

Save the Children was also contacted but did not respond.

Systems to report sexual harassment or abuse

When asked, most of the agencies answered that they had "mechanisms" to prevent sexual harassment in place. Although some did reply they were "reviewing" or "refreshing" their systems to be more effective.

Oxfam and the ICRC told Euronews they were just starting to build a centralised system for their organisation.

NRC was the only one to not comment on the type of reporting system they had in place.

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