February 14, 2018; Reuters
Close on the heels of the Oxfam scandal, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) disclosed yesterday that it had addressed 24 cases of sexual abuse or harassment in its own ranks last year, and 19 people were fired as a result.
In all, 146 complaints were received from the ranks, with 40 involving abuse or harassment. Twenty-four of those 40 were cases of sexual harassment or abuse.
MSF takes this step as Britain’s development minister considers possible prosecutions and a potential withdrawal of funding from other aid organizations that do not learn from Oxfam’s missteps. What exactly this means, when many observers see the problem as quite widespread, may be a little difficult to discern for organizations that haven’t been transparent to date about incidents they already know about, or perhaps sufficiently unresponsive to have discouraged reporting in the first place. In other words, there may be a great number of additional shoes ready to drop. How should the field respond? How about donors and funders?
NPQ’s investigative reporter Amy Costello had started her own deep investigation into the problem even before the Oxfam scandal broke last week. You may have heard her first segment yesterday on PRI’s The World. The bulk of the story will be broadcast, again on The World, in three additional segments over the next few weeks. We hope you will join us there as Amy Costello interviews survivors and experts to try to make some sense of the parameters, impact, and approaches to this devastating problem.—Ruth McCambridge