2013 worst year ever for aid workers

Mustafa Abdalla Adarge, Mohamed Abu Elgassem and Ahmed Elsayed are the three Sudanese humanitarian workers that were taken by armed men in Kutum, North Darfur and held captive for 32 days. They were freed on June 18, 2014. A report by Humanitarian Outcomes reveals that 2013 was the most dangerous year for aid workers. Photo by: Albert González Farran / UNAMID / CC BY-NC-ND

2013 was the most dangerous year for aid workers since the international development community started gathering in 1997 official statistics about the security of humanitarians around the world, data released Monday shows.

In its annual report to mark World Humanitarian Day, U.K.-based nonprofit Humanitarian Outcomes registered 460 victims, up 66 percent from 277 the previous year. Up to 87 percent of victims were national staffers, members of local nongovernmental organizations and national Red Cross/Red Crescent personnel. Thirteen percent were international humanitarians — even though only 8 percent of global aid workers are deployed outside of their own country and most international organizations tend to restrict the movements of their staff in highly dangerous environments.

Despite the spike in the number of victims, the report notes this does not necessarily mean that aid workers are now less safe, as only countries mired in conflict registered many more incidents of violence than in 2012.

2013 was the most dangerous year for aid workers since the international development community started gathering in 1997 official statistics about the security of humanitarians around the world. View larger version.

Up to three-quarters of all attacks were concentrated in five nations — Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Pakistan and Sudan — while Somalia, which for years had been one of the most dangerous countries to be a humanitarian, was noticeably absent from the top five. In the case of Somalia, however, fewer attacks merely reflected the dwindling presence of aid workers, especially since Médecins Sans Frontières pulled out of the country late last year amid growing insecurity.

Shootings, kidnappings and assaults involving either nonfirearm weapons or no weapons at all were the three most prevalent means of attack, while explosives were the least common, even though they had the most marked increase among all tactics last year. Up to five complex attacks — combining explosives and shooting — were reported, as well as two cases of violent sexual assault and 25 incidents in which the manner of attack could not be determined.

Roads remain the most dangerous places for aid workers — not surprising given the large role that road travel plays in their work: among the 155 people killed last year, a third died in transit.

More than halfway into 2014, the statistics on aid worker security already seem discouraging. Preliminary figures from Humanitarian Outcomes show that as of mid-August, the number of humanitarian deaths reached 79 — more than in all of 2012. Again, many of these attacks were in conflict-affected areas such as South Sudan and Gaza.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

You have 2 free articles left
Log in or sign-up to unlock all of the free news on Devex.

About the author

  • Bldg 3

    Anna Patricia Valerio

    Anna Patricia Valerio is a Manila-based development analyst focusing on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.