Articles

What is killing humanitarian aid workers?

Today’s soldiers are smart. They launch missiles and drones from a safe distance behind computer screens. And when they are obliged to venture out, they are forewarned by intelligence and well protected by their armour.

In contrast, more and more civilian aid workers, protected by little more than their sense of righteousness, serve at chaotic frontlines, and are pressured to bear witness and provide succour…come what may. Unsurprisingly, some of them are bound to be harmed.

But it is not just being in the wrong place that puts humanitarian workers at risk.There is increasing mistrust of the humanitarian enterprise either because its practitioners are not so scrupulous nowadays or their efforts can be easily abused for other ends. Besides, in a world of impunity where bad behaviour is a norm and there is rarely any accountability for hurting aid worker, it is simple to target humanitarian access as part of warmaking tactics.

Could it be that it is not random bombs and bullets but the erosion and abuse of humanitarian principles (including by careless humanitarians themselves) that is killing more of them?

What happens when the world doesn’t move freely?

When the world is not able to travel, distances of the heart grow faster than bodily distances. And we understand less and less about places not visited. Terrible atrocities can then flourish so easily behind closed borders. Worst of all, as our worldview shrinks, we stop caring and growing ourselves. The sooner the world re-opens, the better for both our sanity and our common humanity.

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