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On World Humanitarian Day, Media Outlets Report On Rise In Violence Toward Relief Workers

Marking World Humanitarian Day Thursday, several media outlets examine the uptick in violence against aid workers and efforts to protect them.

“Aid workers have been ambushed, bombed, assassinated or taken hostage in growing numbers worldwide,” writes, pointing to data collected by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which found “102 relief workers were killed in 2009, up from 30 a decade earlier. The year 2008 was a grim milestone – 122 aid workers were killed, the most in one year.” The article includes comments by several members of aid organizations as well as John Holmes, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, and Abby Stoddard of Humanitarian Outcomes, a group that “monitors security issues in the world’s relief community” (Neuhaus, 8/19).

Inter Press Service explores the motivation behind escalating attacks, including an argument by some that “the perception, or misperception, that humanitarian aid is influenced by specific Western ideologies or Christianity, is the cause of the escalating number of attacks on aid workers.” Another argument asserts that the attacks are part of a strategy to get any humanitarian organization to leave the country. The article includes comments by the authors of the book “Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power and Ethics” and a spokesperson for UNICEF (de Fazio, 8/18).

“The [U.N.] General Assembly proclaimed 19 August as World Humanitarian Day two years ago to commemorate the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, which claimed the lives of 22 UN staff members, including the world body’s top envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounded more than 150 people,” U.N. News Centre writes in a piece that details how U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others will mark the day (8/18).

“People who have lived through terrible events are often left with nothing. No family; no food; no shelter; no job. … Humanitarian workers help them get back on their feet to restart their lives,” Ban said in a statement. “On World Humanitarian Day, let us remember those in need … Those who have fallen while trying to help them … And those who continue to give aid, undeterred by the dangers they face – for the sake of building a safer, better world” (8/3).