The most dangerous place for aid workers

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 03 January 2013

Medical agencies, financed by the European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection department, or ECHO, operate mobile health clinics in South Sudan refugee camps. Photo by: Malini Morzaria / EU

Violence against health workers in Pakistan has captured international headlines as recently as this week – sad yet unsurprising news for a country that has seen attacks on aid workers for years.

Pakistan ranked as the second-most dangerous place for aid workers in 2012, according to research by Humanitarian Outcomes. The data hasn’t been verified yet, the organization says, but it is available online and is expected to find its way into an annual report to be published later this year.

Pakistan, of course, has already seen its share of violence in 2013: Several NGO workers were killed in an ambush on Newyear’s Day in a district in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

To date, however, Afghanistan continues to be the most dangerous place for aid workers, topping the list for the third year in a row. In 2012, the country saw 44 attacks against aid workers, down from 51 in 2011.

South Sudan, number three on the list of most dangerous places for aid workers, saw 15 attacks in 2012. The world’s youngest nation entered the list in 2011, placing second.

Rounding out the dubious top 10 list for 2012 are Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and the Philippines. Honduras and the Central African Republic dropped out of the top 10 last year, although more recently, conflict in the CAR has flared up again, posing renewed security threats against aid workers. The United Nations and the International Rescue Committee pulled out some staff members from the country in late December.

Violence against aid workers comes in various forms, among them the use of explosives, which was not a common cause of aid worker casualties until the mid-2000s, according to the Aid Worker Security Report 2012.

Ambush attacks, however, remain most prevalent. In December, for instance, an attack against health workers involved in a vaccination campaign in Pakistan was launched by gunmen on motorbikes.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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