In light of the shocking news headlines this week regarding the gross sexual misconduct of several Oxfam workers in Haiti; I am writing on behalf of HHA in response to this alarming news. We have been deeply saddened and angered by this situation and the impact these actions will have had on those women and possibly girls, betrayed by those sent to Haiti to help them.
In view of this story and the understandable negative impact it is having across the charity sector, we wanted to write and ensure our supporters that HHA take Safeguarding very seriously. We have an active Safeguarding Policy that is regularly reviewed to ensure these kind of shameful acts don’t happen within HHA. This policy is active on a daily basis through out HHA, involving many elements. Whether it be carrying out criminal record checks on all staff and volunteers visiting Haiti or training our local staff in ways to protect those individuals we’re privileged to serve.
Since HHA began, I am pleased that we have never been in the position of witnessing any such grave misconduct within our organization. However, recognising the severity of this weeks news, I will be meeting with our Chair of Trustees and our Safeguarding advisor in the next week to ensure we continue to operate at the highest levels.
I would also like to briefly respond to another narrative that has re-surfaced off the back of this weeks news, questioning both the impact of UK Government Aid and also more generally the aid effort in Haiti. Whilst it is understandable such questions have been raised, I would ask that people judge HHAs efforts not by the appalling behavior of others, but by the impact and integrity of our own efforts.
I still vividly remember living in Haiti during the earthquake and leading HHAs emergency response. I will never forget the scenes of devastation that I witnessed, the sights and smells that will live with me forever. However, I will also never forget what a privilege it was to serve alongside many heroic men and women of great integrity, from Haiti and abroad, whose personal sacrifice and efforts saved many lives.
After the earthquake, HHA were amongst the first to respond to those left paralysed with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI), an injury that had never been dealt with before in Haiti. Some questioned whether Rehab Medicine was possible in such an environment when SCI patients at the time had a 1-2 year life expectancy. 8 years on and I’m proud that our emergency SCI response continues to serve hundreds of Haiti’s most vulnerable each year.
Since 2011 when our purpose built Rehabilitation Unit opened following the earthquake, we have cared for 415 inpatients left partially or completely paralysed through an SCI, stroke or other neurological disability. We’ve cared for thousands of more outpatients and now have one of the leading Rehabilitation Units in the country. This is just one example of what British generosity and aid can achieve.
Whilst this is of course a sad week for the charity sector, I hope that this brief note will give you assurance of HHAs continued commitment to act at the highest possible moral and legal standards; ensuring those we serve can continue to get the critical support they need. With all that said, if this week has raised any specific concerns or questions about our efforts in Haiti please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Thank you for your time and continued support.
Carwyn (on behalf of HHA Board of Trustees)