Kidnapping in Niger underscores need to bolster security measures

Kristalina Georgieva embarked on a four-day visit to Niger early this year. The EU commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response called on “all parties involved” to not endanger and impede the work of humanitarian workers. Photo by: European Commission / ECHO / CC BY-ND

The death of an aid worker who was kidnapped with five colleagues in mid-October is yet another reminder to the humanitarian community about the importance of having security measures in place, especially in conflict states.

NGO Security, a blog about safety and security issues and resources for humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations, noted the kidnapping in Niger was not “an opportunistic crime.” The kidnappers reportedly knew that an Italian anthropologist working for Doctors Without Borders would be staying at the guest house, and intended to abduct him when they stormed into the compound.

So how did the kidnappers come across this information?

Lapses in protecting these kinds of information are among factors that endanger aid worker security. NGO Security has outlined basic processes organizations, staff members and their families need to keep in mind to ensure security.

  • Determine which types of information can be used to harm the organization or its staff and implement measures to safeguard these details.

  • Find out who would want to harm the organization or its staff members and do not limit analysis to external threats.

  • Evaluate the risks that may arise if critical information has been compromised. Determine the severity of these risks to be able to come up with an appropriate course of action.

Being proactive instead of reactive in disturbing situations is a strategy that Africare implements, Niger program manager Laurie Timmermann shared with Devex. Timmermann said Africare has a safety and security plan in place that helps ensure staff members’ safety while on the job. Further, its Niger office is “presently working to further upgrade [the safety and security plan] in light of these developments” to ensure the safety of employees.

The kidnappers released five of the six abducted humanitarian workers over the weekend. Although relieved at the aid workers’ release, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva called on “all parties involved” to not endanger and impede the work of humanitarian workers.

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About the author

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    Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news for the Development Newswire. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.