Deadly Professions: Violent Attacks Against Aid-Workers and the Health Implications for Local Populations

Document Type: Perspective

Authors

School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Abstract

War has devastating implications for families, communities, cultures, economies, and state infrastructure. Similarly, the last decade has seen an increase in the number of attacks against health workers in conflict zones and unstable environments. Unfortunately, these attacks have grave consequences for local populations which often rely on foreign aid programs for their health and well-being. As such, this paper will examine why aid-workers have increasingly been targeted for abductions, ambushes, assassinations, and various forms of intimidation. Furthermore, examples of terminated health programs, as well as populations served by current medical and humanitarian interventions, will be provided to impart a sense of magnitude and importance of health programs to the reader. Lastly, suggestions will be presented which could serve to minimize aid-workers’ risk and exposure to acts of violence in the field.

Keywords

Main Subjects


  1. Oxford Dictionaries [internet]. Oxford University Press. [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/ definition/english/war
  2. Levy BS, Sidel VW. War and public health. New York: Oxford University Press; 2008. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyn075
  3. Lischer SK. Military intervention and the humanitarian “force multiplier”. Glob Gov Rev Multilateralism Int Organ 2007; 13: 99–118.
  4. Taipale I. War or health?: A Reader. New York: Zed Books; 2002. doi: 10.1093/ije/31.6.1286-a
  5. De Torrente N. Humanitarian action under attack: reflections on the Iraq war. Harv Hum Rts J 2004; 17: 1.
  6. Paust JJ. Legal Aspects of the My Lai Incident: A Response to Professor Rubin. Rev 1970; 50: 138.
  7. Coupland R. Health Care in Danger: a sixteen country study [Internet]. International Committee of the Red Cross; 2011 [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/ reports/4073-002-16-country-study.pdf
  8. Moulins C. Health Care in Danger: Violent Incidents Affecting Health Care [Internet]. International Committee of the Red Cross; 2012 [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.icrc.org/eng/ assets/files/reports/4050-002_violent-incidents-report_en_final.pdf
  9. Major Attacks on Aid Workers: Summary Statistics (2003-2013) [Internet]. Humanitarian Outcomes; 2013 [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: https://aidworkersecurity.org/incidents/report/ summary
  10. Kulish N. Doctors Without Borders to Pull Out of Somalia. The New York Times [serial on the internet]. 2013 Aug 14 [cited 2013 Dec 8]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/world/africa/ doctors-without-borders-to-pull-out-of-somalia.html
  11. Hitchen L. Contract has not meant better care, say doctors. BMJ 2007; 334: 865. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39191.670347.db
  12. Pedersen D. Political violence, ethnic conflict, and contemporary wars: broad implications for health and social well-being. Soc Sci Med 2002; 55: 175–90.
  13. Ghobarah HA, Huth P, Russett B. The post-war public health effects of civil conflict. Soc Sci Med 2004; 59: 869–84.
  14. Coghlan B, Brennan RJ, Ngoy P, Dofara D, Otto B, Clements M, et al. Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a nationwide survey. Lancet 2006; 367: 44–51. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(06)67923-3
  15. Coghlan B. An ongoing crisis [internet]. [cited 2013 Dec 13]; Available from: http://206.188.2.178/sites/default/files/migrated/ resources/2007/2006-7_congomortalitysurvey.pdf
  16. Brennan RJ, Nandy R. Complex humanitarian emergencies: a major global health challenge. Emerg Med 2001; 13: 147–56.
  17. UNICEF. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. 2012 annual report [Internet]. United Nations Children’s Fund; 2013 [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.unicef.org/wash/files/2012_WASH_ Annual_Report_14August2013_eversion_%281%29.pdf
  18. Democratic Republic of the Congo [Internet]. Action Against Hunger. [cited 2013 Dec 9]. Available from: http://www.actionagainsthunger. org/countries/africa/democratic-republic-congo
  19. ICRC. ICRC 2012 Annual Report Volume 1 [Internet]. International Committee of the Red Cross; [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/annual-report/icrc-annual-report-2012.pdf
  20. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). International Activity Report 2012 [Internet]. Medecins Sans Frontieres; 2013 [cited 2013 Dec 10]. Available from: http://www.msf.org/international-activity-report-2012
  21. UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response [Internet]. UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. [cited 2013 Dec 13]. Available from: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php
  22. Stoddard A. Humanitarian NGOs: challenges and trends [internet]. 2009 [cited 2013 Dec 13]; Available from: http://dspace.cigilibrary. org/jspui/handle/123456789/22644
  23. Stoddard A, Harmer A, Haver K, Overseas Development Institute. Providing aid in insecure environments: trends in policy and operations. London: Overseas Development Institute; 2006.
  24. Abiew FK. Humanitarian Action under Fire: Reflections on the Role of NGOs in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. Int Peacekeeping 2012; 19: 203–16. dOI: 10.1080/13533312.2012.665698