Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday revealed 21 staff members were either dismissed or resigned for paying for sexual services in the last three years.
In addition, contracts were not renewed for two staff members suspected of sexual misconduct, said Yves Daccord, the ICRC's director-general, according to a statement.
"This behavior is a betrayal of the people and the communities we are there to serve. It is against human dignity and we should have been more vigilant in preventing this," Daccord said. "The ICRC has more than 17,000 staff members worldwide. We are concerned that incidents that should be reported have not yet been reported, or were reported but not properly handled. We are taking action to address this."
Daccord said all staff are contractually bound by the ICRC's Code of Conduct, which explicitly forbids the purchase of sexual services, including in locations where prostitution is legal.
"It is so important that the silence that has surrounded this issue has been shattered. This is a watershed moment for the humanitarian sector as a whole," Daccord said. "We owe it to the people we serve to behave with absolute integrity."
The Red Cross is among other humanitarian organizations that have been hit by sexual harassment allegations and exploitation by aid workers.
Oxfam Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence resigned from her post earlier this month amid a sexual scandal involving the British charity group.
Lawrence said in a statement she was "deeply sad" to resign and "took full responsibility" for alleged sexual misconduct by staff in Chad and Haiti.
Some of the accusations involve Oxfam staff who went to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The aid group, a consortium of international charities, is under fire for allegedly failing to tell the British government's Charity Commission the full story regarding the purported behavior.