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Social Work: How Dangerous Is It To Deliver Humanitarian Aid?

• January 09, 2013 • 9:15 AM

image_previewYesterday in Geneva, the World Food Program, which is the UN’s food aid operation, admitted that its supply lines for aid to many Syrian cities have been cut. The announcement claimed that the world body is delivering food aid to 1.5 million people monthly in Syria, but needs to reach 2.5 million, to serve the estimated number of Syrian civilians lacking reliable access to food. In part, the million-person shortfall results from the WFP pulling staff out of the country, citing security risks.

What are those risks? According to the fascinating, unnerving Aid Worker Security Database, 187 aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped on the job last year, worldwide. A concurrent study released last week by the Swiss Emblem Campaign, found just under 20 percent fewer casualties, 141, occurred among journalists, a community exposed to similar risks in roughly the same places, during the same period.

In Syria, eight people working with the Red Crescent, Red Cross, United Nations, and three Emergency Medical Technicians were seriously wounded or killed. Most were shot. One was caught in an aerial bombardment. That’s about one person every six weeks.

Most of the aid worker casualties in Syria were Syrian nationals themselves, the Aid Worker Security project found. The humanitarian relief industry suffered a casualty about once every other day in 2012, on average.

Marc Herman
Marc Herman is a writer in Barcelona. He is the author of The Shores of Tripoli.

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