Attacks on aid workers are at an all-time high worldwide, says the UN

World Food Programme aid worker distributes food in Mozambique UN humanitarian
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A total of 62 humanitarian aid workers have died this year around the world, the UN has said. The statistic arrived as the UN prepared to mark 20 years since a devastating attack on its headquarters in Baghdad.

Dozens of aid workers are killed every year

Each year, the UN observes World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, the date that the suicide bombing in Baghdad claimed 22 lives including Sergio Vieira de Mello. He was the UN high commissioner for human rights and head of the UN mission in Iraq at the time. Another 150 aid workers were injured.

Besides the 62 deaths in the world’s conflict zones this year, another 84 aid workers were wounded and 34 were kidnapped. Consulting firm Humanitarian Outcomes compiles the figures. it then presents them in the Aid Worker Security Database. The fatality figure for all of 2022 was 116.

For several years running South Sudan has been the world’s most dangerous place for aid workers. As of 10 August 2023, there had been 40 attacks on humanitarian staffers there, with 22 lives lost.

Next on the list was Sudan to the north. Aid workers there experienced 17 attacks and 19 deaths so far this year. Such high figures had not been seen since the Darfur conflict from 2006 to 2009.

Other countries where humanitarian workers died include the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, Ukraine, and Yemen.

UN: attacks a ‘scar on our collective consciousness’

Organisations including Doctors of the World, Action Against Hunger, and Handicap International compiled a report on the issue of violence against aid workers. It stated that:

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The risks we face are beyond human comprehension

Every year more than 90% of the people who die in attacks on aid workers are locals, according to the International NGO Safety Organization.

This year World Humanitarian Day marked 20 years since the bombing in Baghdad against the Canal Hotel. The building was serving as the UN headquarters in the Iraqi capital.

UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said:

World Humanitarian Day and the Canal Hotel bombing will always be an occasion of mixed and still raw emotions for me and many others

Every year, nearly six times more aid workers are killed in the line of duty than were killed on that dark day in Baghdad, and they are overwhelmingly local aid workers

Impunity for these crimes is a scar on our collective conscience.

As upheavals around the world have grown, the UN says it is working to help nearly 250 million people living in crisis areas. That is 10 times more than in 2003.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via NARA & DVDIS Public Domain Archive

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