South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu stepped down as an ambassador for Oxfam on Thursday, citing disappointment at the British aid agency’s embroilment in a sex scandal involving staff in Haiti after a massive 2010 earthquake.
Employees of Oxfam International, which groups about 20 national and regional branches in 90 countries, have been accused of raping women in South Sudan, committing sexual abuse in Liberia and hiring prostitutes in Haiti and Chad. The charity is under threat of losing its British government funding.
The 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate pulled out of public life in 2010 due to his advancing years but had continued to represent Oxfam even in retirement.
“The Archbishop is deeply disappointed by allegations of immorality and possible criminality involving humanitarian workers linked to the charity,” a statement from his office said.
Tutu was also saddened that the allegations would tarnish the good work achieved by many thousands of people working for Oxfam, it added.
Some Oxfam staff are alleged to have paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti after the country’s 2010 earthquake. Meanwhile, the former Oxfam director at the heart of the Haiti scandal said on Thursday he made mistakes when working in Haiti but denied paying for sex with prostitutes or abusing minors.
In his first response to allegations over his conduct, Roland van Hauwermeiren said in an open letter to a broadcaster in his native Belgium he did not want to cast himself as a victim but feared that Oxfam, other aid workers and those they help would suffer from false accusations.
The charity is under threat of losing its British government funding over sexual misconduct accusations in Haiti and Chad.