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Feb 16, 2:07 PM EST

Britain announces temporary halt to Oxfam funding


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LONDON (AP) -- Britain announced Friday that Oxfam has agreed to temporarily stop seeking government funding and the charity's chief admitted that reports that some Oxfam employees sexually exploited people in crisis zones are "a stain" that shames the organization.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said Friday that Oxfam has agreed not to bid for further funding from her department until the British government believes its "high standards" can be met.

The development is the latest damage done to Oxfam's reputation in just the last week and reflects the very real danger posed to the charity's future fundraising and operations.

Oxfam got 31.7 million pounds ($43.8 million) from the British government in 2016-17.

Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima said earlier that she is appointing an independent commission to investigate the allegations that staff members used prostitutes in Haiti after the country's 2010 earthquake, and also in Chad.

"What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so," Byanyima said.

Byanyima said the commission would "look into our culture and our practices" and set up a vetting system for its staff and urged all victims of abuse to come forward.

"I'm here for all the women who have been abused. I want them to come forward and for justice to be done for them," she told the BBC.

U.K.-based Oxfam has been rocked by allegations that senior staff working in Haiti after the country's 2010 earthquake faced misconduct allegations, including using prostitutes and downloading pornography. The allegations relate to Oxfam GB, one 20 affiliates that make up Oxfam International.

Oxfam says it investigated the case, fired four workers and let three others resign, but the British government and charity regulators have criticized its lack of transparency.

South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, British actress Minnie Driver and Senegalese musician Baaba Maal have all resigned as Oxfam celebrity ambassadors in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations and Britain's charity regulator has launched an investigation.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, admitted the organization needed to reform, but said "the scale and the intensity of the attacks feels out of proportion to the level of culpability."

He told The Guardian that the scandal could have "a substantial effect on public confidence, which would affect public donations."

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Gregory Katz contributed to this report.

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