Record number of aid workers killed in 2013
The United Nations is celebrating World Humanitarian Day on Tuesday to, in the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "honor the heroic aid workers who rush bravely to help people in need."
The date of observance was chosen to honor the lives of the 22 people, including U.N. Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, who were killed on August 19, 2003, when a bomb struck the U.N. headquarters building in Baghdad.
On the 11th anniversary of the U.N. bombing in Baghdad, the U.N. marked another terrible milestone: humanitarian aid workers are being attacked and killed at record rates.
According to the U.K.-based Humanitarian Outcomes organization, a record number of humanitarian workers were killed during 2013.
460 aid workers were affected by 251 separate attacks, representing a 66 percent increase since 2012.
"Of the 460 victims, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded, and 134 were kidnapped."
Three-quarters of the attacks occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria.
"Attacks against humanitarians are on the rise. Enough is enough. Humanitarian heroes must be protected," is one of the U.N.'s campaign messages for World Humanitarian Day 2014.
Noting that the U.S. is "the world's largest humanitarian donor," the White House expressed gratitude Tuesday for the contributions and sacrifices of humanitarian aid workers, who "all too often ... are harassed, kidnapped, or killed for their commitment."
In the absence of political solutions, "Aid agencies, funded by and spurred on by government donors, have pushed on further and further into the front lines of conflict," observes Sara Pantuliano, director of the humanitarian policy group at the Overseas Development Institute.
A U.N. official lamented that without political solutions to conflict, "Humanitarian assistance is a band aid."
U.N. refugee agency spokesman Brian Hansford, who spoke with UPI about the Syrian refugee crisis, emphasized that "The Syrian war," like other conflicts, "can only be solved politically."
"With more than 51 million people forcibly displaced in the world, humanitarian needs are growing," says Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "Humanitarians," he points out, "are needed more than ever."
The U.N. secretary-general concluded his 2014 World Humanitarian Day message by urging the international community to "honor the fallen by protecting those who carry on their work -- and supporting humanitarian relief operations worldwide."