DMcG: I have no doubt there are some in Oxfam and elsewhere who exploited people into prostitutes: all power corrupts, don't you know. However, I see little evidence it is widespread yet
I've commented to people for years that I rarely give to "mainstream" charities working abroad, as I've seen at first hand how a lot of them (and it IS a lot of them, not a tiny minority), and UN staff, behave in areas where they're supposed to be helping. That's not to say I disagree with foreign aid, but the delivery, especially among the bigger charities, seems to be in many cases sadly lacking.
It's not just the sexual abuse of minors (though that's probably the most heinous thing that goes on) but the "living high on the hog" in places where many of the locals are lucky if they get one poor meal a day....the best restaurants in, say Khartoum, Omdurman, N'Djamena or Mogadishu (back in the day when there actually WERE restaurants in Mogadishu!) were easily identifiable by the long lines of UN/ NGO and charity vehicles (usually brand new, desert-hardened 4 x 4s) parked outside.
I knew a guy in Sudan who was making $200,000 a year tax free profit there, importing communications systems from Singapore and installing them in charity and NGO vehicles for 15 times the total of their purchase price, shipping costs and fitting labour costs, and nobody gave a damn. They all wanted these radio systems, even though they never left the Khartoum/ Omdurman conurbation or got outside mobile phone coverage.
I saw an entire shipload of grain from a charity offloaded in Mogadishu, and the next week re-loaded onto a (then) Soviet freighter which came in and offloaded a load of armoured cars.
Containers supposedly containing generators mainly contained cases of whisky, vodka and gin for the expat aid workers.
I've seen projects in Africa where wells for clean water were dug by NGOs, and as soon as the photo-opportunities had ended and the installers pulled out, local warlords moved in and started charging people (often the women, payment being sex) for drawing the water from these charitable wells.
If anyone's read "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures" by Heidi Postlewait and others and thought it might be exaggerated, it's not.
This sort of thing has been going on the whole time I've been working abroad (ie since at least 1979) and despite scandals blowing up every decade or so, never seems to go away. I've been extremely cynical about large scale charities, NGOs and the UN since about 1981. Friends who were recently in Haiti say that very little rebuilding has happened since the earthquake there. The American Red Cross had claimed that 120,000 new homes had been built, but investigations showed that fewer than 6,000 had actually been constructed. Vast amounts of the $15 billion aid funding has disappeared, and a lot of the rest has been spent inefficiently/ ineffectively.
We see these tragedies on our TV screens. Money is pledged. Photo-ops show "things happening".....then the fickle finger of newsworthiness moves on and it all turns to shit in its wake.
My own charitable giving abroad always goes to small-scale projects, with local oversight. My last significant contribution was to rebuilding a school in Nepal following the earthquake there. The money went directly to a fund set up jointly by a UK climber and expedition leader I know well, and a Sherpa who I also know. The sums involved and the transparency are such that waste is kept to a minimum and there is little incentive for corruption. The waste I've seen from mainstream charities beggars belief....maybe because they're so big that control seems to be so remote and corporate that front-line delivery is often compromised.