On 12 January 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. One of the poorest countries in the world, it was utterly unprepared. Roads and bridges, hospitals and government buildings as well as thousands of homes collapsed or were severely damaged. At least 220,000 died – including more than 100 aid workers already in the country – and as many again were injured. Scores of aid agencies with hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of relief raced to bring help, each agency hastily recruiting hundreds of extra workers. Among these men and women of goodwill who were dispatched to organise medical help, to inoculate, feed and protect the thousands of vulnerable people were seven Oxfam employees who, it has now emerged, spent their time off procuring young, possibly underage, girls and women for sex. It is likely that some of their victims were reliant on the aid Oxfam provided, with donations collected on street corners and jumble sales in Britain. The enormity of employees of an organisation dedicated to ending poverty, hunger and social injustice hosting sex parties said to be of Caligulan proportions amid the wreckage of a humanitarian catastrophe is what turns a scandal into a crisis that could damage the whole UK charitable sector.
The Guardian view on Oxfam: time to learn, not destroy