More aid workers killed in Afghanistan — what's next?

A view of a valley in Faryab province in Afghanistan. Unidentified gunmen targeted humanitarians working under the Afghan government’s National Solidarity Program in Oruzgan and Faryab provinces. Photo by: PRT Meymaneh / CC BY

The killing of nine aid workers this week in Afghanistan no longer raises the issue on whether aid workers are being targeted in the war-torn country.

Now the question is: How can the development community work in an environment that’s becoming increasingly dangerous for its staff?

The two incidents — on Tuesday and Wednesday — in which a detonated bomb and unidentified gunmen targeted humanitarians working under the Afghan government’s National Solidarity Program in Oruzgan and Faryab provinces, respectively, raised new fears over the security of aid workers in the country just months before the planned pullout of NATO forces.

A spokesperson for the program, which is run by the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and financed by the World Bank and other donors, was quoted as saying that it appears aid workers were singled out in both attacks.

But this is not the first time this has happened.

In August, the International Rescue Committee suspended its operations in the country following the killing of five of its local staff members, who are also working on a development project under the program. A few months before that, Taliban insurgents attacked the compounds of the International Organization for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Afghan government insists the violence is being perpetrated by elements that oppose the country’s development. But whatever the motive, the fact is that humanitarians do seem now to be the target of the insurgents.

But the bigger threat is that if the incidents do not stop, it may just be a matter of time before international organizations are forced to withdraw their staff, especially foreigners, although no aid group has admitted this in public yet.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.