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Still Not a Target

Every year thousands of men and women leave the comforts of home and family to bring help and healing to those less fortunate, to those facing a crisis every day. We want to think that these brave workers are universally hailed for their tireless help and aid. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It is also true that these humanitarian workers suffer their setbacks and even face danger while offering assistance in the field.

Still Not a Target

While it is not commonplace, it sometimes happens that humanitarian workers must deal with violence against their facilities and even against their person. Fortunately, international law protects humanitarians. Humanitarians are there as neutral agents. They help to save lives and, as such, are not recognized as targets.  Nevertheless, every day they go to work in conflict zones where bullets fly, and explosions are a regular occurrence. These brave men and women are making a huge difference in areas where there has been war or natural disaster. Thanks to their efforts more people are saved, and fewer people die.

You also might want to read our article about Duty of Care.

Duty of Care

Humanitarian impact in conflict zones

Humanitarian aid can take a variety of forms. These workers might do anything from providing necessities like food and water to helping families and communities through education. They help provide medical aid in areas where vaccines are rare and in war-torn countries where violence is common, they provide trauma and wound care. They may even help with sexual violence care in areas where women are devalued. Every day these brave workers help save the lives of innocent people.

Besides the more traditional roles of humanitarian aid, like providing food, water, and medical care, there is also a need for trained troops and police to provide peacekeeping and civil protection in countries with a high level of violence. The UN Peacekeeping effort is one example. They currently have troops deployed in 14 operations around the world where they have over 110,000 peacekeepers. UN Peacekeepers work in challenging environments to help protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Attacks on humanitarian workers

Despite the international regulation and agreements, there are still attacks on humanitarian workers. Even though these workers are present only to help and offer aid, the fact remains that they are in conflict zones where life is often unpredictable. Fortunately, with sufficient preparation and risk assessment, many casualties can be prevented.

In 2017, the Aid Worker Security Report recorded 313 humanitarian aid victims worldwide, which is a relatively low number when you consider the thousands who are working in the field. Still, these numbers represent a sad reality that even those who have come to give aid to those in need are not immune to the violence that characterizes these regions. Unfortunately, such attacks happen despite the international agreements to keep humanitarian workers safe.

One way to help keep workers safe is to recognize that there are certain areas with more violence. The report noted that most acts of violence occurred in South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic. Workers who deploy to these areas should be doubly cautious.

Despite all efforts, there was still a significant rise in violence for 2017 over 2016. The Aid Worker Security Report cited a 30% rise. Since many of the worst conflict zones are not accessible to international humanitarian workers, the majority of the victims belonged to local NGOs.

These statistics serve to underscore the bravery and courage of those humanitarian workers who daily risk their lives in the most violent areas on the planet. Their goal is to help those they can, despite any threats they may receive. Without such committed individuals, the body count in these areas would undoubtedly be significantly higher.

Duty of Care Brochure CTA

#NotATarget Movement

Recently, social media got involved with the hashtag, #NotATarget. It serves as a reminder to workers and combatants alike that these humanitarian workers are entirely neutral in whatever conflict may be raging in their area. They are there to help. They are not there to take sides. Therefore, they should not be targeted not even when they are working in highly-charged conflict zones.

Individuals and news organizations started using the hashtag several years ago. Unicef, the International Red Cross, and Save the Children used it to highlight violations of the non-combatant international laws. Many individuals also use it, and anyone reading this article can help spread the word by using the hashtag #notatarget.

Please, note that Raptim stands alongside every humanitarian who travels to conflict areas and we work hard to protect our travellers through the duty of care.

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