In 2011, 308 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or wounded – the highest number yet recorded. After declining in 2010, total incidents of violence against aid workers rose again, particularly kidnappings.
Most of these attacks continued to take place in a small number of countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan and Sudan.
Statistical analysis suggests that attacks on aid workers are most prevalent in weak, unstable states and those experiencing active armed conflict. These attacks are also correlated to low levels of rule of law.
The rate of aid worker killings appear to be independent of overall murder rates in the host state, the type of political regime in place and the degree of societal openness.
The above suggests that attacks on humanitarian workers are a symptom of state failure as well as a product of war. This limits options for humanitarian actors, as the host states formally responsible for providing secure access for aid operations are fundamentally ill-equipped to do so.
Aid agencies must analyse the potential of the host government to protect and assist aid operations in each context, understanding that where the capacity or political will for this is absent, they are wholly responsible for their own security.