News

UN: Risks Increasing For Humanitarian Aid Workers

In observing this year's World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations aims to raise public awareness of the risks run by the men and women who provide aid to victims of conflict and natural disasters around the world.  The day also honors humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or been injured while on the job.

Global crisis

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan are affecting an estimated 20 million people.  A powerful earthquake in Haiti early this year has affected about three million people, hundreds of thousands of whom are still without proper shelter.

Millions of people are suffering from drought in Niger.  Millions more are struggling to survive in war-torn Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Democratic Republic of Congo --  and the list goes on.

Wherever there is war, wherever a natural disaster occurs, humanitarian workers quickly appear on the scene. If there were no humanitarian workers, hundreds of millions of victims of man-made and natural disasters would be without help -- and many would not survive.  

Risk to life

Despite the vital service they provide, the United Nations says humanitarian workers are under increasing threat.  A spokeswoman for the World Food Program, Emilia Casella, tells VOA humanitarian workers are running increasing risks to their safety.

"In 1999, there were 30 humanitarians who were killed on the job.  And, I would like to point out the vast majority of those were actually national staff in the country they were working in.  Ten years later, last year, there were 102 humanitarian workers killed on the job and our own organization," Casella said. "The World Food Program lost 16 people last year in incidents, while they were carrying out work to feed the most hungry and vulnerable people in the world."  

Casella says there is a misperception that humanitarian aid is delivered exclusively by Western organizations, many of whom are motivated by ideological or religious beliefs.  

She says this false perception is responsible, in large part, for the escalating targeted attacks on humanitarian personnel.  The reality, she says, is quite different.  She notes most humanitarian workers are local people.  And, all humanitarian workers, she says, administer aid in a neutral and independent way.

"When you see your colleagues who lose their lives or who are injured when they are doing really vital and important jobs, it makes you feel angry and upset that it is not understood that what they are there to do is something that nobody else is willing to do," Casella explaines. "They are there to help children, widows, the elderly--people who cannot help themselves.  

Events impacting aid operations

Seven years ago, on August 19, a terrorist bomb destroyed the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.  At least 22 people were killed, including Special Representative, Sergio Vieiro de Mello.  More than 100 people were wounded.

A second bombing a month later resulted in the UN withdrawing its 600 staff members from Iraq, to the detriment of humanitarian operations.

WFP's Casella says it is important for people to understand humanitarian workers are doing a vitally important job.  She says without them, there would be a lot more suffering in the world.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs