NEW YORK – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its 2018 overview of the Aid Workers Security Report in time for the commemoration of World Humanitarian Aid Day. The observance is held annually on August 19th.
The overview tells a story that we would rather not read. But it is one that needs to be told. In 2017,
- There were 158 “major incidents of violence” against humanitarian operations in 22 different countries.
- 72 humanitarian aid workers were kidnapped.
- 102 aid workers were wounded.
- 139 workers were killed.
An especially disturbing part of the report revealed “a steep rise in the number of victims belonging to national and local NGOs, reflecting the near universal reliance on national staff and organizations to take on the riskiest of operational roles in the most insecure areas.”
Another disturbing part of the report indicates that the number of attacks on aid workers annual has not significantly changed over the past decade. The total number of victims, including fatalities, was the third largest in the same 10-year period, exceeded only in 2013 and 2014.
The greatest number of attacks occurred in South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic, each of which recorded double-digits. Keep in mind, this is the number of attacks, not the number of victims. Other countries where multiple attacks occurred include the Congo, Pakistan, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, and Nigeria.
There is a gut-wrenching revelation for readers when they experience a sense of relief after learning that attacks have declined in some countries. Were it not for background information, we would assume that to be good news. However, available evidence appears to confirm that the reduction is at least “partly due to aid workers minimizing their presence – spending less time in the neediest places.”
The sinful nature of man could hardly be more vivid than in attacks on staff and volunteers who are providing aid to those who are displaced and suffering in areas of conflict. The attacks on innocents may be the worst cruelty of wars and rebellions. But, as despicable as that is, how much more evil can it be to attack, injure, kidnap, or kill people who are helping to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide healthcare for those who have been caught in the middle of the fight.
We often direct our readers’ attention to the plight of those in need of help so that you will know their plight and pray. Today, let us remind each other of those who put themselves in harm’s way to provide humanitarian aid. Those to whom they minister did not choose to be there. These workers, however, have willingly placed themselves within the area of a conflict and, thereby, have exposed themselves to danger as well.
Right now is a good time to pause and pray for the safety of humanitarian aid workers.
- UNOCHA, Our Work
- UNOCHA, Global Humanitarian Overview 2018
- Relief Web, Aid Worker Security
- World Humanitarian Day, World Humanitarian Day 2018
- Medium, Aid worker deaths: the numbers tell the story
- By U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos (140725-N-RY232-006) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons