Medair statement on 2016 incident report in South Sudan
Devex recently wrote an article regarding an incident of sexual harassment which happened to a Medair staff member in South Sudan. Please read below our full statement.
We were deeply saddened at the incident that occurred in South Sudan, and to recently learn that the matter was not concluded to the satisfaction of our staff member. In 2016, when we received the report of sexual harassment perpetrated by a staff member of another organisation, our primary concern was for the welfare of our staff member. We immediately implemented our safeguarding processes – evacuating her to ensure her safety, ensuring she had access to psychological support, and monitoring the investigation already underway.
After our team member reported the sexual harassment to us, we conducted a security assessment to prevent the occurrence of additional incidents. This security assessment led to a leadership decision to no longer deploy female staff requiring overnight accommodation into that project location. Additionally, following a time of respite in Nairobi, our staff member indicated that she did not feel safe to return to the project location. We fully respect this decision which is an option available to any staff at any time.
The termination of the contract was a mutual decision made in consideration of the security and safety assessment and the feelings of our staff member. Our staff member accepted an offer of immediate departure from the country and an extended notice period which included access to medical services and psychological support. As is our standard practice we sought alternative roles for her in South Sudan but at that time there were no suitable positions available. Due to programming reasons, we closed our operations in Malakal, South Sudan, where the incident took place, in early 2018.
A zero tolerance policy on harassment
Medair has a zero tolerance policy on all forms of harassment, and as an organisation we aim to generate a working environment which is inclusive, accountable and values communication between our staff. We are known for the quality of our work and are certified by the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), which requires the highest standards in the humanitarian sector, including our practices relating to staff care and well-being. We work in 13 countries in over 50 locations, in some of the most complex and volatile humanitarian contexts in the world. We always put staff safety first and we take it incredibly seriously – this is fundamental to us. We also believe that the protection of humanitarian workers is of utmost importance and reporting, feedback and continuing to highlight the inadequacies within our sector will lead to positive change.
Our commitment to improving
We are a learning organisation and have considered how we could have improved the outcome in this situation. We will look at new ways to re-assign staff following contract termination, at better ways to manage our relationships and more effective means to communicate with our alumni and staff members. We remain committed to every member of Medair and fully appreciate the extraordinary gifts each individual brings. We have reached out to the individual involved and will continue to offer our support.
Medair policies: https://www.medair.org/accountability/