New Security threats for humanitarian aid workers


  • Peter Runge


Two recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq highlight the current security threats for humanitarian aid workers: Firstly, in July 2004 the humanitarian aid organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) stopped its operations in Afghanistan. This decision followed the targeted killing of five MSF aid workers in Northwestern Afghanistan in June 2004, a brutal act unprecedented in the organisation’s history. Afghanistan has become a dangerous place for aid workers: Since March 2003 more than 30 humanitarian aid workers have been killed. Secondly, in September 2004 the so-called “two Simonas”, staff members of the Italian non-governemental organization (NGO) “Un ponte per” (A Bridge for Bagdad) were abducted in Iraq and, fortunately, released in October 2004. Around 130 foreigners have been seized in Iraq in a wave of abductions that began in April. Most have been released, but around 30 have been killed. Due to the tense security situation in Iraq all the expatriate staff members of Western NGOs have been evacuated in the last months.