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Medical charity rocked by sex claims

This news post is over 3 years old

BBC report alleges "sex for medicine"

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has become the latest aid organisation to become involved in sexual abuse allegations.

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show claimed that some of its staff had sexually exploited women in Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

There were even claims – unverified by the BBC – that workers had traded medicine for sex.

In response, he Charity Commission, the regulator for England and Wales, said it has requested a meeting with the charity to "assess the regulatory concerns" and has had opened a compliance case.

Female former employees told the BBC that the use of sex workers was “widespread” among male MSF staff in Liberia.

One woman said told a senior member of staff had bragged about how easy it was to persuade young women who had lost their parents to the Ebola to perform sexual acts in return for medication.

Over all there was a feeling that "certain predatory men were seen as too big to fail”.

One former staff member alleged she had been sexually harassed by male staff and, when she reported the behaviour, she was offered mediation and told she would be fired "if she did not sort things out with her colleague", the BBC said.

A statement issued by MSF UK read: “We do not tolerate abuse, harassment or exploitation within MSF. We are sorry for any instances where people have been subjected to harassment, abuse or otherwise mistreated and/or felt that it was not adequately dealt with.

“We know that MSF is not immune to these issues and we take any reports seriously. We have mechanisms in place to prevent, detect and address staff misconduct.

“We have looked into the claims put to us by the BBC as far as we are able, but the lack of detail provided has made this difficult. Based on the information provided, we have been unable to confirm the specific allegations made in the BBC report. We would urge anyone with any concerns to report them via MSF’s confidential whistleblowing mechanisms so that we can take action.

“We welcome the current scrutiny as this is what enables change in and beyond MSF. The more people talk about these issues, the more it discourages unacceptable behaviour and encourages individuals to report it.

“We are deeply saddened when people do not feel able to come forward. While we have reporting mechanisms in place where complaints can be made, we know we need to do more to ensure that they are known, trusted and used by the people who need them.

“Underreporting is a key challenge as those affected may not come forward for fear of not being believed or being stigmatised. Unfortunately this is as true in MSF as it is in wider society.

“We continue to improve our reporting mechanisms so people feel safe to report abuse at MSF, and to ensure that all staff understand the importance of responsible behaviour and conduct themselves in a responsible manner. We have sanctioned people for misconduct, including dismissal.”

The aid sector has been rocked since it was revealed that Oxfam staff had hired prostitutes in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2011.

Last week a leaked memo revealed that Oxfam GB may have to make cuts of £16 million as a result of lost income caused by the scandal.



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