Thursday, February 08, 2007

Heroes in the crossfire

I consider humanitarian aid workers to be my ultimate heroes. I can think of no profession that requires so much selflessness combined with raw physical courage. These people could be living comfortable lives in some western country but they voluntarily to go to some of the most hellish places on Earth. This is an even more noble profession to me than that of a soldier particularly because humanitarian aid workers risk their lives without the protection of guns, tanks and flack jackets and their sole purpose is to help people desperately in need.

And as The Globalist notes, it really is a dangerous job. While I consider humanitarian aid workers to be the most heroic of heroes, many combattants see them as just another target. Aid workers were once considered off limits but this is no longer the case.

As The Globalist notes, Between 1997 and 2005, nearly as many aid workers were killed in the line of duty as were international peacekeeping troops.

An astonishing fact. But with civilians of all kinds being increasingly targeted by combattants, there's no reason to think that aid workers would be exempt from this trend.

When international aid workers die in the field, it is more likely to be from intentional violence than from any other cause, including illness and vehicle accidents.

Accidental landmine explosions and situations where aid workers are caught in the crossfire between warring parties represent a very small portion of total major incidents. In the vast majority of cases, the aid workers were deliberately targeted.

Furthermore, although they are certainly attractive targets for simple robbery, in most of the incidents where major violence was used, the perpetrators had political motivations as well.

In the nine years between 1997 and 2005, politically motivated incidents were seen to increase at a rate faster than the “purely criminal” attacks.

Part II of The Globalist's series mentions a point worth noting. While foreign aid workers play an important role in the delivery of services, too often the contributions home country national aid workers is overlooked.

The piece notes that the majority of aid worker victims (nearly 80%) are nationals of the country in question and that in the most violent hotspots, the relative risk to national staff appears to be rising significantly year to year, while that of international staff is declining.


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