Number of attacks on aid workers hits record level

World Humanitarian Day report shows 155 aid staff killed and 171 wounded last year

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 09:41

Attacks on international aid workers have risen sharply over the past year and a half, with spikes in the numbers of killings, injuries and abductions, according to a database compiled by a humanitarian advisory group.

The figures, being highlighted to coincide with World Humanitarian Day today, reflect the surge in conflict zones around the world, mostly in chronically unstable countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. Overall, aid workers have been attacked in 30 countries.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock have today paid tribute to aid workers and humanitarian efforts on World Humanitarian Day.

The day is an opportunity to recognise the efforts of humanitarian workers around the world who face enormous risks to bring relief to people whose lives have been torn apart by war or natural disasters.

This year’s theme is “The World Needs More Humanitarian Heroes”.

In a statement, Mr Flanagan said the recent deaths of aid workers in Gaza and South Sudan were a stark illustration of the daily threats faced by those delivering humanitarian assistance in places torn apart by conflict.

Mr Sherlock paid tribute to Irish and international aid workers. “Violence continues to exact a heavy toll on humanitarian personnel. I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences on behalf of the Irish people to the families, friends, and colleagues of the 54 humanitarian aid workers killed so far in 2014, and the 155 killed in 2013.”

The advisory group which compiled the database, Humanitarian Outcomes, said the number of attacks on aid workers in 2013 set an annual record, at 460, the most since the group began compiling its database, which goes back to 1997.

Known as the Aid Worker Security Database, it is widely regarded as an authoritative reference for aid organisations and governments in assessing trends in security threats.

The new figures show that 155 aid workers were killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 abducted in 2013, representing a 66 per cent increase in the numbers of victims from a year earlier.

More than half the fatalities were in Afghanistan, where aid workers faced particularly acute dangers from a potent Taliban insurgency even after more than a dozen years of war and American-led occupation.

Preliminary figures for 2014 show that at least 79 aid workers have been killed as of mid-August. The preliminary figures also show increases in attacks involving aid workers for July and August because of South Sudan’s civil war and the Israeli assaults in Gaza, where a number of United Nations facilities were struck.

Broken down by category, the database shows that the most prevalent form of violence against aid workers is a roadside ambush or attack while the intended victims are traveling and most vulnerable.

Humanitarian Outcomes, based in London, released the updated figures on the eve of the anniversary of a truck bombing that severely damaged the UN offices in Baghdad, on August 19th, 2003, killing 22 people, including a top UN diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

That attack is considered one of the darkest events in the history of the United Nations, which now commemorates it every year in what the organisation has named World Humanitarian Day.

Additional reporting: New York Times