What are the consequences of the increase of the deaths of journalists and humanitarian workers in unstable environments to international aid and policies?
We are not immune.
With World Humanitarian day happening just two days ago, the recent kidnapping of two Italian girls in Syria and the very sad and gruesome killing of journalist James Foley, the danger of working in unstable environments is on everyone’s mouth.
Recently, figures were released on the number of death and violence suffered by humanitarian workers in 2013, which was the worst year yet. The research showed that 155 humanitarian workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded and 134 were kidnapped, all as they attempted to help others in some of the world’s most dangerous places and make people’s lives better.
The report also mentions that the first 8 months of 2014 have seen more humanitarian workers dead than the entire 2012.
Now, these figures will unfortunately have an impact on staff presence in warzones and unstable countries, and automatically on the efficiency of emergency interventions. The report by MSF “Where is Everyone?” mentioned logistical, bureaucratically related and financial limitations (amongst others) to working in unstable and unreachable areas, but security is definitely becoming a huge risk in the efficiency and impact of the work humanitarian workers do.
Considering the fact that the UN already has exaggerated methods to provide security for its staff members, spending thousands of dollars in convoys, security and material for short meetings just to show field presence, we can only imagine what these figures will do.
A striking example of the consequences that the increased security risks for humanitarian staff, was when in August 2013 MSF terminated all their activities in Somalia. MSF is known to work in the most remote and dangerous areas, and are almost always the first ones on the ground. This decision, which was not taken lightly, proves that the risks are becoming higher than the benefit of saving people’s lives.
We are getting into a vicious circle in which the most innocent will be the ones paying with their lives. As rightly quoted by the Guardian, the organizations involved on the ground are ” filling the void left by political inaction and are paying the price with their lives”. We must find a way out of this.
In the meantime, it is only fair that we honour the people who worked and lost their lives, and those who persevere with a firm belief that they can make things better. Not just for one day a year, but every day.
Written by: Virginia Vigliar