Charity Tearfund reveals Malawi abuse incident

Malawi landscapeImage copyrightPA
Image caption The incident was said to have taken place in Malawi in 2009

An aid worker on a Scottish government-funded project was dismissed and reported to police for sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl, it has emerged.

Christian charity Tearfund revealed details of the Malawi incident after the Scottish government contacted organisations it works with in the wake of the Oxfam abuse allegations.

It involved a staff member at a partner organisation of Tearfund in 2009.

Charity Tearfund reveals Malawi abuse incident
Charity Tearfund reveals Malawi abuse incident

The charity said it took “swift and appropriate action” to help the girl.

Tearfund added said it was “deeply saddened” by the incident.

The Scottish government said International Development Minister Alasdair Allan had since met with Tearfund to “discuss their response”.

In February, the UK’s Charity Commission launched an investigation into Oxfam’s handling of claims its staff in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 had hired prostitutes.

Following the Oxfam scandal, Mr Allan wrote to Scottish charities urging them to ensure robust policies were in place to protect vulnerable groups.

Details of the Malawi incident emerged in the Times newspaper after a freedom of information request obtained a report sent from Tearfund to the Scottish government.

‘Safeguarding procedures’

The incident happened on a project that was part-funded with Scottish government cash.

A spokeswoman for Tearfund said: “The project was run by a partner organisation Tearfund was working with at the time and was partially funded by a grant from the Scottish government.

“The incident involved an employee of the partner organisation who abused someone within that organisation’s care.

“When a Tearfund staff member in Malawi was notified of the allegation of abuse, even though the allegation did not involve a Tearfund staff member, we ensured the safeguarding procedures we had at the time were followed.

“A Tearfund Child Protection Officer also intervened to ensure that swift and appropriate action was taken.

“This included providing care for the individual who was harmed, and the partner organisation launching an investigation. The individual was provided counselling and moved away from the project.”

Tearfund said it had ceased working with the partner organisation involved in 2010.

The freedom of information request says the incident was reported to the Malawi police but no charges were brought.

A disciplinary panel of Tearfund’s partner investigated the case and the staff member was dismissed for gross misconduct.

‘Honest and transparent’

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “The vast majority of those working in international development and humanitarian emergencies do so in a diligent and appropriate manner.

“However we are deeply concerned about any reports of serious misconduct within the sector and we will not tolerate any form of human rights abuses or misconduct, wherever they take place.

“We expect all partner organisations to monitor their work closely, and to be pen, honest and transparent, especially on projects funded by the public sector.”

The spokesman said Mr Allan’s letter to international NGOs “brought a report of an incident on a Scottish government part-funded Tearfund project to our attention for the first time”.

He added that the Scottish government would “continue to work with partner organisations that demonstrate they have safeguarding policies in place to protect vulnerable groups”.

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