Over the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of aid workers being targeted for kidnap and ransom. Of all forms of violence aid workers are subjected to, kidnapping has seen the steepest rise. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of reported kidnappings of aid workers each year quadrupled to 121, according to independent research group Humanitarian Outcomes.
This is terrible for aid workers, most of whom are national rather than international staff. It could also prove harmful for the communities aid organizations serve. According to the Clements Worldwide Risk Index, 27 percent of major aid groups and other organizations indicate they have delayed expansion of operations due to kidnap and related risks.
Many observers believe increased risk is a “wake-up call” for the humanitarian aid sector. That is certainly accurate. But what exactly is it the sector has to wake up to?
Simple: All aid organizations have a moral and legal duty of care to ensure that risks to staff are identified and managed, and that staff receives the support, resources, information and training they need to reduce the risks to which they are exposed.
Lynne Cripe is the director of resilience services at KonTerra. She was director of employee engagement, support and communications at CARE USA and a technical adviser with USAID. She earned a B.A. in behavioral studies from The Master’s College and her Ph.D. in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine, and was a Fulbright scholar in the Philippines.
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