Action Against Hunger stands with the international community on August 19 to recognize World Humanitarian Day—a day to celebrate the hard work of aid workers everywhere, to remember the friends and colleagues our community has lost, to advocate for stronger protections and better and safer access to people in need, and to demand accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law.
Today and every day, Action Against Hunger pays tribute to aid workers around the world, who put themselves at risk to save lives and relieve the suffering of people affected by disaster and conflict.
Action Against Hunger Chief Executive Andrea Tamburini said:
Humanitarian actors cannot end conflict, but they are a lifeline for the civilian men, women, and children who suffer its consequences. Aid workers put their lives on the line to deliver lifesaving food, water, medicines, and more to populations affected by armed violence. We urge all parties to conflict to uphold international humanitarian law and to demand justice when it is violated. The international community can and must do more to protect aid workers and civilians.
Conflict Fuels Hunger
War and armed conflict are a major cause of hunger – a fact unanimously affirmed by the UN Security Council in May 2018. International humanitarian law prohibits all parties to armed conflict from directing attacks against civilians and obligates them to protect civilians, including aid workers. Yet, aid workers and civilians are increasingly targeted with impunity: direct attacks on protected spaces including homes, hospitals, humanitarian aid operations, aid convoys delivering relief supplies, and public gatherings.
In some of the world’s worst conflicts—including South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan—aid workers cannot safely reach the communities most in need of humanitarian assistance, which is a violation of international humanitarian law. Aid workers, civilians, and protected spaces like hospitals, refugee camps, and schools have all been targeted and attacked in the last year.
Parties to conflict increasingly defy international humanitarian law, despite their obligations to ensure that civilians in need have safe, timely, unimpeded access to humanitarian aid.
The safety and security of humanitarian relief personnel is required for humanitarian relief to be delivered to civilian populations in need. Violence against humanitarian staff prevents aid agencies from reaching vulnerable people with lifesaving food, medical care, shelter, water, and relief supplies. Under international humanitarian law, parties to conflict must respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel.
Violence Against Aid Workers: Key Facts
The Aid Worker Security Database catalogs every reported incident of violence against humanitarian workers, and the statistics are alarming.
In 2017 alone:
- 158 major incidents of violence against humanitarian operations were documented last year in 22 countries.
- 313 aid workers were victims of some type of attack: 139 were killed, 102 wounded, and 72 kidnapped.
- Most of these attacks occurred in the conflict-affected countries of South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic (CAR), which together accounted for two thirds of all major incidents.
- 34 of the 46 countries where Action Against Hunger intervened in 2017 are countries in conflict or affected by conflicts. Our organization registered 85 security incidents in this period, 13 of them critical.
- In 2017, the number of victims belonging to national and local NGOs sharply increased. The majority of the world’s humanitarian personnel are national aid workers. National aid workers fill most of the critical field positions in humanitarian organizations, and they are the most frequent victims of attacks.
Learn more: Visit the database online here.
Humanitarians are #NotATarget
Action Against Hunger is deeply alarmed by the unprecedented scale of humanitarian needs caused by conflict and the increasing impunity of attacks on civilians and aid workers. We call on all parties to armed conflicts—and those who influence them—to uphold international humanitarian law and acknowledge that civilians and aid workers are not a target.
The deliberate, targeted killings of 17 Action Against Hunger aid workers in Muttur, Sri Lanka occurred twelve years ago, on August 4, 2006. Although the attack is one of the most serious recent crimes against humanitarian personnel worldwide, government authorities still have not taken any action to bring those responsible for the crime to justice. We remember their sacrifice in service of humanity and demand justice and accountability.
On World Humanitarian Day, Action Against Hunger honors aid workers all over the world who are risking their lives to serve those in need. We join our humanitarian partners in urging world leaders—and all those in a position of power—to do everything possible to meet their duty to protect civilians and aid workers.
- Join the humanitarian community in taking a stand by taking a selfie: sign the living petition to demand protection for aid workers and civilians. Act now.
- Earlier this year, Action Against Hunger developed a new toolkit, Responding to Violence Against Humanitarian Action, with resources for humanitarian professionals to share information, speak out, and challenge impunity in cases of violence against humanitarian action.
- Learn about Action Against Hunger’s Protect Aid Workers campaign in a Q&A with Pauline Chetcuti, Action Against Hunger’s Head of Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy.