313 aid workers were victims of major attacks in 2017
In 2017, 158 major incidents of violence against humanitarian operations occurred in 22 countries, affecting 313 aid workers.
The Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) records major incidents of violence against aid workers, with incident reports from 1997 through the present. Initiated in 2005, to date the AWSD remains the sole comprehensive global source of this data, providing the evidence base for analysis of the changing security environment for civilian aid operations. For more detail on the AWSD click here.
Summary of key findings
In 2016, 158 major attacks against aid operations occurred, in which 101 aid workers were killed, 98 wounded and 89 kidnapped. The number of attacks and victims increased only slightly from 2015.
For the second consecutive year, South Sudan was the most violent context for aid workers, reflecting the fracturing conflict and an atmosphere of impunity for armed actors.
Last year, more than 300 aid workers were killed, wounded or kidnapped, the second-worst year on record.
Despite their charitable intentions, aid workers face criminal as well as ideological or politically-motivated attacks as well as accidental threats in war zones. Afghanistan and Somalia have taken the greatest number of lives, while Sudan and South Sudan are not far behind.
This paper seeks to provide an overview of the operational challenges and emerging good practices in negotiations on humanitarian access with non-state armed groups (NSAGs) during humanitarian responses in high-risk countries. It draws primarily on research conducted for Secure Access in Volatile Environments (SAVE), a three-year research programme (2013–2016) exploring the question of how to deliver a high-quality humanitarian response amid high levels of insecurity.
In insecure environments, where humanitarian staff have limited opportunities for face-to-face interactions with communities, achieving accountability to affected populations is more complex and often requires a mix of approaches. Community feedback mechanisms can be a valuable tool to strengthen community engagement and to improve the quality of humanitarian programming.
In contexts where humanitarian organisations and communities are exposed to violence and insecurity, there are significant challenges not only in ensuring access to assistance, but also in assessing its reach and effectiveness. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is critical for understanding the performance of aid, ensuring accountability to affected populations and donors, and allowing effective continuation of programmes amid insecurity.
Many humanitarian organisations work in active conflict zones under direct threat of violence. This significantly constrains their operations, and makes it difficult to deliver the aid people need. We looked at two questions: how many aid agencies are able to get access to the most dangerous places? And how do access constraints affect ‘humanitarian coverage’ – the degree to which people in need are being reached by the aid system?
In conflict situations, such as those in Afghanistan and Somalia, simple communication technologies can help researchers and humanitarian organisations collect more accurate data on the effects of humanitarian aid. Electronic surveys taken with smartphones, for example, can automatically assess collected data and prevent implausible responses from being entered. This toolkit weighs the benefits – and the risks – of technology used in aid and development.
In 2015, 287 aid workers were victims of major attacks.
Major attacks on aid workers, 2010-2015
2015 was the second consecutive year showing a lower global casualty toll for aid workers. There were 148 incidents recorded in 25 countries, affecting 287 aid workers, which represented 22% fewer attacks compared to the previous year, and 42 fewer victims.
In response to continually challenging operating environments for humanitarian aid, InterAction commissioned Humanitarian Outcomes to conduct a study of how the major humanitarian NGOs perceive, define and manage risks to their organizations and operations. The NGO Risk Review centered on a participant group of 14 international non-governmental organizations from among the largest and most field-present humanitarian operators.
The study examined two key principal questions:
John Caccavale, Secure Access Researcher – South Sudan
All eyes are on Addis Ababa, waiting to see the fate of yet another proposed peace-agreement. Meanwhile, the most affected areas and people of this conflict remain cut off from humanitarian aid.
Author: Rahel Dette, Research Associate-Component 3 (Accountability and Learning)
As we research the monitoring of aid in insecure environments, practitioners repeatedly express great interest in new technologies to gather information or communicate with affected populations.
Will Carter, Senior Researcher—Component 2 (Enabling Access and Quality Aid)
The preliminary findings of Component 1 of SAVE are beginning to emerge, shedding new light on how humanitarian access is affected by insecurity. While it is well understood that access is reduced and constrained in violent environments, there has never been an attempt to measure these effects – in part because the humanitarian footprint itself has never been fully quantified. Component 1 is attempting to full this evidence gap.
In 2014, 329 aid workers were victims of major attacks.
Aid Worker Security Incidents, 2004–14
In 2014, 190 major attacks against aid operations occurred, affecting 329 aid workers in 27 countries. This represents a decrease of roughly 30 per cent from last year’s all-time high. However, numbers of attacks remained higher than in previous years.
Summary of key findings