A British-funded charity supported by Meghan Markle has admitted its workers traded food and cash for sex with survivors of the devastating 2010 earthquake on Haiti.

The confession by global charity World Vision will dismay supporters, including Prince Harry's fiancée, the charity's ambassador until last year.

Desperate survivors of the disaster were forced by paid employees of World Vision – which received £17 million (NZD $32million) from the UK Government last year – to have sex or pay money for World Food Programme aid, reports Daily Mail.

In a statement, World Vision said those involved in sexual exploitation were not World Vision staff but volunteers and cash-for-work beneficiaries (see full statement below).

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The revelations – brought to the attention of the MoS by a former World Vision worker – will fuel concern over abuses by aid workers following the scandal over the use of prostitutes by Oxfam officials, also in Haiti.

READ MORE:

Oxfam aid worker accussed of Haiti prostitute orgy had transgressed before

Last night, MPs demanded an investigation into the aid industry and suggested World Vision – like Oxfam – might be stripped of bidding for fresh work with the Department for International Development (Dfid).

"It is astonishing people contracted to work on projects in Haiti could trade goods and cash for sex to some of the most vulnerable people on earth," said Tory MP Nigel Evans.

Meghan Markle has won tributes for her work fighting poverty in Africa. Photo / World Vision Canada
Meghan Markle has won tributes for her work fighting poverty in Africa. Photo / World Vision Canada

The sordid transactions emerged after the Word Food Programme (WFP) – set up by the United Nations to distribute food in emergencies – ordered an outside evaluation of the cash and food for work projects run by its partners in September 2011.

Under these schemes, humanitarian agencies handed people cash – about £2.20 (NZD$4.18) a day – to clear rubble, dig ditches, sweep streets and clean toilets in camps amid the post-earthquake chaos.

The investigation singled out criticism of World Vision projects, including "concerns about various forms of exploitation of beneficiaries, fraud, nepotism and inaccurate records" according to one internal email.

After meetings with WFP officials, the charity ordered a "Beneficiary Processes Evaluation", completed in May 2012. This confirmed people receiving aid, selected by local community leaders, were "subject to a level of sexual and financial exploitation".

The charity admits some of those leaders making selections were paid "temporarily" but says none were formal employees.

Its annual Accountability Report admitted "camp residents were allegedly subject to both sexual and financial exploitation to be included on beneficiary lists. At the same time, corruption and manipulation of the lists for personal gain was a reported problem".

World Vision prided itself as being Meghan Markle's chosen charity before she stopped representing them last year. Photo / World Vision Canada
World Vision prided itself as being Meghan Markle's chosen charity before she stopped representing them last year. Photo / World Vision Canada

A WFP spokeswoman confirmed they had discovered "worrying irregularities" and told World Vision to tighten controls.

World Vision said the allegations were taken "extremely seriously", leading to strengthening of their internal systems, and insisted Haitian authorities were informed where there was evidence of abuse.

"In light of the current situation, we are reviewing historic data about incidents and how we reacted," a spokesman added. "We are committed to disclosing any new information to our regulators and partners."

Last night it emerged Dfid had been told about "safeguarding and other incidents" only on Friday, after the MoS approached World Vision.

Dfid added there was no record of this case on its counter-fraud system and that World Vision was now writing to the Charity Commission with "an initial report".

World Vision statement

The earthquake in Haiti was a tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of children and their families who lost everything. The nation was already the poorest and most fragile in the hemisphere. It was challenging time for aid workers who witnessed their loss and suffering, and were involved in trying to help them.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters and partners around the world, World Vision provided food to at least two million people, emergency shelters to more than 40,000 households, and potable water for more than 90,000 people. We set up more than 30 Child-friendly Spaces, provided cholera prevention and treatment for more than 300,000 people and operated 12 mobile and static health care clinics.

While we know we did not get everything right, the Mail on Sunday story in the UK and Ireland misrepresents our actions and omits key findings from our investigations, which we described publically, and which were shared with authorities, donors, and the Mail's journalist, several years ago.

In our cash-for-work programme in 2010-11, several evaluations conducted by World Vision and our partners highlighted a number of issues in government-run camps; of nepotism, sexual exploitation and inaccurate record-keeping.

World Vision's extensive investigations into these issues revealed that those involved in sexual exploitation were not World Vision staff. They were community volunteers and cash-for-work beneficiaries themselves.

Our commitment to strengthening and improving systems saw us report these issues back to authorities, and work with them to put training and follow-up procedures in place to cut down on these practices. This information has been publicly available in our published Accountability Reports from 2011, 2012 and 2014. We provided these reports and internal documents to the Mail on Sunday journalist, Ian Birrell as long ago as 2014.

We recognise that it is possible there may have been inappropriate behaviour by people employed by or associated with World Vision that went unreported. If that is the case, we encourage anyone who saw or experienced sexual exploitation or abuse to come forward, or to report it through our confidential Whistleblower Hotline, and we will do all we can to investigate (report online http://worldvision.ethicspoint.com or call collect +1-503-726-3990).

We are sorry to anyone who feels let down by World Vision in any failure of ours to protect or report.

How aid workers trawled the Haiti tent cities to pick up young orphaned girls as young as 12 for sex

Written by Ian Gallagher, in Port-Au-Prince Haiti

A woman walks past a building that was damaged during the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Photo / Getty
A woman walks past a building that was damaged during the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Photo / Getty

Orphaned girls in Haiti – some as young as 12 – were regularly taken by aid workers from refugee camps for sex, The Mail on Sunday has learned.

The workers cruised the streets in charity vehicles in the middle of the night and "spirited girls from their tents" before returning them to the camps by morning. Some of the girls were paid £2.50 (NZD$4.75) for their encounters with their abusers.

Human rights lawyer Antonal Mortime claimed the practice was widespread following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which left 220,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless – and still continues today.

In an interview, Mr Mortime painted a bleak portrait of a country in which "the worst kind of sexual exploitation" had, for many, become a fact of life.

"The girls, aged between 12 and 17, had nothing," he said. "Their families had been wiped out and they had little food or water.

"The men were from European and American agencies who knew exactly the situation. They arrived at the refugee camps in their Land Cruisers but were careful not to wear anything revealing which charity they represented.

"They took the girls away for sex at their villas and hotels. They paid them very little – perhaps the older girls were able to negotiate more – and then drove them back to the camps before dawn so their crimes would go undetected.

"It happened over and over again, week after week, and I've heard reports of it still happening in isolation even now.

"No one can call this prostitution: the girls were confused and starving and had little choice. It is difficult to conceive of anything more sinful given what had happened to Haiti."

His shocking revelation follows a warning last week from Bocchit Edmond, Haiti's ambassador to the UK, who raised concerns that a paedophile ring might have been operating.

Mr Mortime, the director of a collective of human rights lawyers in the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, said the actions of the refugee camp predators was common knowledge among the aid agency community.

"I know that at least three international charities warned staff of severe repercussions if they became involved. But still it went on."

He added that the agencies acted with impunity because "our government was weak".

A Mail on Sunday investigation in Haiti, in the wake of the Oxfam sex scandal, can also reveal that officials there are investigating reports that girls of 12 and 13 may have attended aid agency sex parties and that missionaries preyed on children in orphanages.

Food Lion employee Dell Locklear, foreground, helps offload pallets of free bottled water for residents after Hurricane Matthew. Photo / Getty
Food Lion employee Dell Locklear, foreground, helps offload pallets of free bottled water for residents after Hurricane Matthew. Photo / Getty

Oxfam is accused of covering up claims that its workers used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011 – and has been ordered to send evidence of alleged criminal behaviour by its staff to law enforcement agencies.

The process paves the way for prosecutions to be considered there or in the suspects' countries.

Prostitution is illegal in Haiti, as is having sex with someone under the age of 18.

Four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed and three, including the charity's country director Roland van Hauwermeiren – who denies claims he used prostitutes – were allowed to leave their jobs before the end of a 2011 investigation.

Among the many allegations facing Oxfam is the claim that a luxury apartment block it rented in Port-au-Prince was used by workers for sex parties likened to a "Caligula orgy" with young prostitutes. It is claimed that similar parties were held at other compounds across the city.

Renan Hedouville, head of the Haiti government-funded Office for the Protection of Citizens, said: "We have found that, since 2010, individuals in some international NGOs [non-governmental organisations] operated beyond the law.

"I have heard reports – so far unverified – that girls of 12 or 13 were involved. We are preparing to investigate in an attempt to identify possible victims."

Mr Hedouville added: "This whole scandal – not just involving Oxfam but other agencies too – has remained hidden for far too long. Many organisations did much to help – there are some very good people out there – but some individuals, too many, were involved in practices that were wrong.

"It is an injustice to the people of Haiti who are victims but also to the people from around the world who expect their donations to be used properly and responsibly."

Sex workers in Port-au-Prince, where one in four people live on less than £1 (NZD$1.90) a day, said some aid workers are charged £2.50, while locals typically pay around 70p.

On Friday night in the upmarket hillside Port-au-Prince suburb Petion-Ville, home to many aid workers, young women were grouped in knots in doorways and at street corners.

One, Mireille, 23, said she turned to prostitution aged 16 a year after the earthquake.

She once harboured dreams of becoming a nurse like her mother, who, along with her father, two brothers, aunt and cousin, were killed.

"Before the earthquake life was good," she said. "Then everything changed. I lived in a refugee camp for a while with the daughter of my mother's friend.

"We had nothing and were starving, so this was the only way out."

She works the streets six nights a week, sometimes seven.

"Many aid workers, all nationalities, are among my clients. Less so now, but I still see them at least once a week. They are good customers."

Government officials in Haiti meanwhile warn of another impending scandal – that children living in the country's 750 orphanages have fallen victim to sexual predators.

"Since the earthquake there have been reports of missionaries from the US abusing children in orphanages," said Andolph Guillame of the Ministry of Social Affairs. "This is a huge scandal."

Last year a report by Lumos, the charity founded by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, said many orphanages in Haiti use deception to recruit children from impoverished parents.

Around 30,000 live in orphanages, yet four out of five children have at least one living parent. Child finders working on behalf of the orphanages offer parents money to give children away, promising a better life.

Lumos said it found evidence of abuse in orphanages but added that cases "rarely come to light".