Michael O’Neill, the Chair of INSSA’s Board of Directors, welcomed the launch of the recent report from Humanitarian Outcomes, noting the importance of the report in continuing to highlight the threats facing aid workers in the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to at risk populations around the world.
In addition to the usual analysis of the pattern of attacks against aid worker, this year’s report focuses on the pattern of sexual violence and how the risks facing female and male aid workers differs in programme contexts.
The report covers the data on the Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) up to the end of 2018, and among its key findings are the following:
Reversing the recent trend of modest declines in the incidence of attacks, 2018 was the second worst year on record (after 2013) for aid worker security, with 399 aid workers affected by major violence in 221 separate attacks. Among those attacked, 26 aid workers were killed, 143 wounded, and 130 kidnapped.
Consistent with the last couple of years, South Sudan continues to experience the highest number of attacks. Recent mass hostage-takings there have driven up global kidnapping figures, but there was also a spike in the number of kidnappings in Afghanistan. As has been evident for some time, the report notes the pattern of attacks on Ebola responders in DRC, where the incidence of attacks has been further increased by the increased incidence of criminal activity. Reflecting on the last three years, the report notes the degree to which a relatively small number of countries has an impact on the global figures for attacks against aid workers.
As ever, the greatest incidence of attacks have been on national staff, but there has now also been an increased in the rates of attack and fatalities per capita relative to international staff. The report attributes this in part to the increasing localisation of aid in high-risk areas. Looking at the period between 2015 and 2018, the report notes that there is now an equal per capita incidence of attacks on national and international staff, but that the per capita incidence of fatalities of national staff has continued to increase and is now markedly above that of the fatalities of international staff, with the latter seeing a clear drop over the period. This is a very significant change that needs to be considered in terms of how we consider the security of national staff and of our partners.
While male staff experienced three to- six times higher attack rates than female staff overall, the largest gender variance is in the category of sexual violence, which predominantly affects women. The report notes that the incidence rate is much lower than reality due to the pattern of under-reporting of incidents but highlights the seriously concerning fact that sexual violence was used in 8% of all reported attacks involving female victims. The report highlights the challenges of the potential stigmatisation of victims and that the threat may, in some circumstances, come from within their own organisation. The report suggests that the threat of sexual violence needs to be integrated into informed consent processes, and this is something that needs to be considered. In relation to the issue of sexual violence against aid workers, we have increased the focus on this issue in the HEC training, are looking at developing guidance on a new obligatory SOP for all SMPs in relation to managing the risk of sexual violence for aid workers, and plan to develop a new security briefing note in relation to sexual violence.