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Aid group IRC acknowledges three sex abuse cases in DRC

Head of IRC David Miliband

New York, United States | AFP | The International Rescue Committee on Wednesday confirmed three cases of sexual abuse under its watch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saying police were informed and those involved dismissed.

The admission comes with the international aid sector rocked by growing public allegations of sexual misconduct, already implicating British-based charity Oxfam and the French group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

On Wednesday, British tabloid The Sun said London initially froze funding to IRC, headed by Britain’s former foreign minister David Miliband, over concerns about 37 allegations of fraud, sex abuse and bribery in DR Congo.

An IRC spokeswoman told AFP that the New York-based organization had substantiated three cases “which related to sexual abuse” in DR Congo, saying “the staff were dismissed and the cases were referred to the police.”

It was not clear when the misconduct took place.

IRC media manager Lucy Keating told AFP that the DR Congo cases involved people from “another organization” that was “part of the consortium of which IRC was the lead.”

“The IRC followed good practice in these cases, reporting the allegations to donors, conducting investigations and providing multiple reports to donors following the conclusion of the investigations,” she said in an email.

The Sun said Britain’s Department for International Development cut off funding “based on direct reporting of sexual harassment and fraud.”

When the IRC’s ethics and compliance unit arrived in Africa to investigate 24 cases they also opened a further 13, the newspaper reported.

The Sun said that while the British government initially withheld funds, 5.4 million pounds ($7.6 million) of taxpayer’s money was eventually released.

Keating confirmed that funding was restored after the investigations were completed.

The aid sector scandal began last week with allegations that staff at Oxfam, which operates in more than 90 countries, had been accused of rape, sexual abuse and using prostitutes in countries such as South Sudan, Liberia, Haiti and Chad.

French group Doctors Without Borders (MSF), that had more than 40,000 staff members working in the field, said Wednesday it fired 19 staff last year for harassment or abuse, following 146 complaints or alerts in 2017.

Of the 146 complaints, those that concerned sexual harassment or abuse were 24. Of these, 22 cases involved MSF staff,  and 19 of them resulted in dismissals from MSF.

 

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