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Humanitarian Aid Workers Face Growing Dangers

The UN has been doing everything to help the planet from warning about meat consumption to turning down their own thermostat, but there's one global danger that's harder to fix: serious threats to aid workers.

Gayle Williams, a British and South African aid worker stationed in Afghanistan, was recently murdered by Taliban soldiers illuminating this growing tragedy. Growing numbers of people who dedicate themselves to assisting those living in impoverished nations are becoming victims of fatal attacks.

In the year from July 2007 to 2008, 63 aid workers were killed. Eighteen in Somalia, 17 in Afghanistan, 14 in Sudan, six in Pakistan, and four in Chad. Since June, those numbers have increased. Recently 17 were killed in one bomb attack in Algeria. Although in some countries, the murder of aid workers falls along ideological lines, such as the Taliban murdering for what they believe are religious reasons (Aid workers are there solely for humanitarian purposes and not to promote religious ideology). While in other nations, they are murdered simply for their possessions, as a result of unchecked banditry.

To see some of the reasons behind it, and what one aid worker has to say,


While the latter reason is the result of general lawlessness, in countries like Afghanistan that are going through a political transformation, the reasons fall much more along religious lines. The United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs said, “This is not the result of people being caught up in a conflict or in crossfire, these are people being targeted deliberately because they are humanitarian workers and that is frankly outrageous and unacceptable and makes it extremely difficult to continue our work.”

Aid workers have shared their thoughts about their work in danger. One says:

There are lots of incidents that happen that never make the press. This latest killing, however, I think has shown how dangerous it can be working here. I think it's the sort of the incident that if you're wavering about coming to Kabul in the first place it might possibly change your mind. But personally I always think that these are the sorts of the risks that you take when you believe in a place.

That sounds like the definition of bravery to me.


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