World Vision has hit back at claims survivors of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake were forced by paid employees of the charity to have sex or pay money for World Food Programme aid.
The revelations – brought to the attention of the British Government by a former World Vision worker – will fuel concern over abuses by aid workers following the scandal over the use of prostitutes in Haiti by Oxfam officials, the Daily Mail reported.
The sordid allegations 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.
This afternoon World Vision hit back at the claims and a spokeswoman told the Herald allegations made in the Daily Mail's report were "untrue".
"World Vision's extensive investigations into these issues revealed that those involved in sexual exploitation were not World Vision staff," she said.
"They were community volunteers and cash-for-work beneficiaries themselves."
The spokeswoman issued a statement to the Herald.
"The earthquake in Haiti was a tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of children and their families who lost everything," she said.
"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."
The statement went on to say while World Vision acknowledged it "did not get everything right", the story published in the
"misrepresented" what happened in Haiti and "omits key findings from our investigations, which we described publically, and which were shared with authorities, donors, and the
'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," the statement said.
"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."
The spokeswoman said World Vision was "sorry to anyone who feels let down" by the charity "in any failure of ours to protect or report."
"We recognise that it is possible there may have been inappropriate behaviour by people employed by or associated with World Vision that went unreported," she said.
"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.
"World Vision believes a better world for children is possible.
"Like other aid agencies, there are lessons coming out of the past week that we as an organisation are committed to taking on board and integrating into discussions with our partners in delivering aid to the world's most vulnerable children."