2008 was deadliest year for aid workers: study

Mon Apr 6, 2009 4:36pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Emma Batha

LONDON (Reuters) - Soaring violence in Somalia and Afghanistan helped make 2008 the most dangerous year on record for aid workers, with 122 killed while carrying out their work, a report showed on Monday.

Aid work is now more risky than U.N. peacekeeping as attacks become increasingly politically motivated in some countries, researchers said.

Last year marked a surge in violence against international relief workers and local U.N. contractors such as the truck drivers who deliver food aid in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

There has also been a dramatic increase in kidnappings over the past three years. The latest in Sudan took place on Saturday when unknown armed men snatched two female aid workers, a French and a Canadian, from their compound in southern Darfur.

Altogether, 260 humanitarian workers were attacked in 155 serious incidents in 2008 -- compared with 27 incidents in 1998, according to figures compiled by the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) in New York and the Overseas Development Institute in London.

"We were surprised," said CIC fellow Abby Stoddard, who co-wrote the report. "We did not expect the jump in the past three years that we saw. There seems to be an alarming trend.

"It's a very dangerous profession indeed and I don't think that's understood as much as maybe it should be. The numbers are quite startling and certainly the fatality rate exceeds that of U.N. peacekeepers."

Most of the violence is being driven by three countries -- Somalia, where 45 aid workers were killed, up from 7 in 2007; Afghanistan with 33 deaths; and Sudan with 19.   Continued...

<p>Somali militia men reach out for slain aid workers in the southern Somali port of Kismayu January 28, 2008. Two Somalis and two foreign aid workers working for the Dutch arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres were killed by a roadside bomb near the southern Somali port of Kismayu, witnesses said. REUTERS/Stringer</p>