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Report Highlights Dangers Aid Workers Face, Suggests Strategies To Ensure Their Safety

Over the past decade, humanitarian aid worker casualties have tripled, rising to more than 100 deaths per year, according to a report (.pdf) released Tuesday by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), the Associated Press reports (Snow, 4/12).

For the study, researchers conducted “six field trips to Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan” and performed additional analyses of the situations in Chad, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Yemen, AlertNet reports (Nguyen, 4/12). “From 2005 onwards, the largest numbers of violent attacks on humanitarian personnel have been concentrated in a small number of countries representing the most difficult and volatile operating environments,” the report states. “As a result, the humanitarian footprint has shrunk in some conflict areas where violence has surged in recent years, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia,” it adds (2011).

“Today, humanitarian workers are in some of the most volatile and insecure environments in the world,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said during an event marking the release of the report, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C writes. Yet, “[e]ven as they come under increasing attack, they find ways to continue delivering life-saving services to populations in need,” she added (4/12).

The report “captures the practices that have enabled organisations to work in high-risk areas, maintain operations and provide protection and life-saving services to people in need,” according to an OCHA press release. It also highlights the importance of “humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence” in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and “explains how humanitarian aid workers manage risk within the United Nations’ security management framework,” the release notes (4/12).

“Humanitarian organizations must become more professional, more disciplined and more principled in how they act … in high-risk circumstances,” co-author Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and former U.N. humanitarian chief, wrote in the introduction to the report, the AP adds. “More resources for security measures are needed, especially among local non-governmental groups and national staff members,” Egeland added (4/12).

An AlertNet factbox highlights several innovative strategies described in the report to assist aid workers in delivering relief (4/13).