Humanitarian access to conflict zones imperative

More aid workers have died in the line of duty so far this year than were killed in all of 2012, says international charity World Vision, renewing calls to ensure safe access to countries like Syria. 

World Humanitarian Day is a chance to remind all combatants to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and civilians in violent hotspots, the aid agency says.   

Seventy-six humanitarian workers have been killed since January 1 – including two World Vision staff in Sudan – while last year 65 lost their lives. 

World Vision Australia’s head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Anthea Spinks said aid workers often did their jobs in dangerous conditions, but had to have guaranteed safe access to bring food, shelter, water and medical care to those who need it. Especially as children are often one of the most vulnerable groups in a conflict or disaster-affected area. 

“Humanitarian workers do what they do because they have a strong belief that the world should be better than it is, and they want to contribute to making it so,” Ms Spinks said. 

“Aid agency logos used to be enough to protect the people going into dangerous areas, but sadly that’s no longer the case and every year we hear heartbreaking stories of the lives that have been lost.”

In Syria, where the death toll has passed 100,000 and more than 6.8 million people are in need, aid agencies still face barriers to accessing the people – including children – who desperately need their help.

“As we remember those who have died in other conflicts while trying to deliver aid, we call on all parties to the conflict to immediately provide safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations to provide assistance to children and their families affected by the conflict,” Ms Spinks said. 

World Humanitarian Day is held on August 19 every year, the anniversary of the fatal 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed 22 people. 

Kate Rose, WV Australia Communications