Haiti earthquake survivors told: if you want aid, pay or sleep with us
Published by The Mail on Sunday (7th March, 2018)
A British-funded charity supported by Meghan Markle has admitted its workers traded food and cash for sex with survivors of the devastating 2010 earthquake on Haiti.
The confession by global charity World Vision will dismay supporters, including Prince Harry’s fiancée, the charity’s ambassador until last year.
Desperate survivors of the disaster were forced by paid employees of World Vision – which received £17 million from the UK Government last year – to have sex or pay money for World Food Programme aid.
The revelations – brought to the attention of the Mail on Sunday by a former World Vision worker – will fuel concern over abuses by aid workers following the scandal over the use of prostitutes by Oxfam officials, also in Haiti.
Last night, MPs demanded an investigation into the aid industry and suggested World Vision – like Oxfam – might be stripped of bidding for fresh work with the Department for International Development (Dfid).
‘It is astonishing people contracted to work on projects in Haiti could trade goods and cash for sex to some of the most vulnerable people on earth,’ said Tory MP Nigel Evans.
The sordid transactions emerged after the Word Food Programme (WFP) – set up by the United Nations to distribute food in emergencies – ordered an outside evaluation of the cash and food for work projects run by its partners in September 2011.
Under these schemes, humanitarian agencies handed people cash – about £2.20 a day – to clear rubble, dig ditches, sweep streets and clean toilets in camps amid the post-earthquake chaos.
The investigation singled out criticism of World Vision projects, including ‘concerns about various forms of exploitation of beneficiaries, fraud, nepotism and inaccurate records’ according to one internal email.
After meetings with WFP officials, the charity ordered a ‘Beneficiary Processes Evaluation’, completed in May 2012. This confirmed people receiving aid, selected by local community leaders, were ‘subject to a level of sexual and financial exploitation’.
The charity admits some of those leaders making selections were paid ‘temporarily’ but says none were formal employees.
Its annual Accountability Report admitted ‘camp residents were allegedly subject to both sexual and financial exploitation to be included on beneficiary lists. At the same time, corruption and manipulation of the lists for personal gain was a reported problem’.
A WFP spokeswoman confirmed they had discovered ‘worrying irregularities’ and told World Vision to tighten controls.
World Vision said the allegations were taken ‘extremely seriously’, leading to strengthening of their internal systems, and insisted Haitian authorities were informed where there was evidence of abuse.
‘In light of the current situation, we are reviewing historic data about incidents and how we reacted,’ a spokesman added. ‘We are committed to disclosing any new information to our regulators and partners.’
Last night it emerged Dfid had been told about ‘safeguarding and other incidents’ only on Friday, after the MoS approached World Vision.
Dfid added there was no record of this case on its counter-fraud system and that World Vision was now writing to the Charity Commission with ‘an initial report’.