On Oct. 5, 2009, a suicide bomber struck the headquarters of the WFP in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing five people and injuring five others. One of the survivors, Adam Motiwala, an American aid worker helping coordinate humanitarian aid to millions of displaced Pakistanis, suffered injuries to his head, leg and stomach.

Aid workers have always faced risk while working in global hot spots, but Motiwala explains why the implementation of a proposed USAID grant vetting policy is likely to increase these dangers in comments filed with the U.S. State Department on Feb. 17, 2012.


More information on the Partner Vetting System (PVS) available here.

Aid Worker Safety Overview

January 26, 2012

Around the world thousands of aid workers are under threat of harm due to increased association with military or government interests. To curb this, it is imperative that aid workers be perceived as neutral and impartial during times of assistance delivery. Below are links to our resources on the issues facing aid workers and our proposals. 

Featured Resources

Understanding Aid Worker Safety Statistics

April 2, 2012

The frequency of aid workers around the world being killed, kidnapped or attacked has risen sharply over the last decade. The surge in attacks has led to an increase in tracking security incident-related statistics. Written by the European Interagency Security Forum, Incident Statistics in Aid Worker Safety and Security Management provides guidance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups on how to understand, use and create this information.

Safety and security incident statistics are an important component of a comprehensive risk management strategy for the aid sector. They provide information on the changing nature of threats, how security problems impact an organization and how well they are managing the risks to which they are exposed. Click here for more on issues related to aid worker saftey.

Flawed Counterterrorism Policy Puts Aid Workers in More Danger

February 1, 2012
Nathaniel J Turner

Nearly 800 aid workers were killed in the past decade. Already in 2012, four aid workers have lost their lives. Kidnappings have also been on the rise, just last week a successful rescue took place to save an American citizen and her colleague, both staff for the Danish Refugee Council, who had been held captive in Somalia since last October. While violence against those providing humanitarian assistance around the world is nothing new, in recent years it has reached unprecedented levels, peaking in 2008 with 127 deaths.

MSF: Integrating Aid into Military Strategy Threatens Humanitarian Efforts in Somalia

March 5, 2013

Humanitarian assistance to millions of Somalis must remain a top priority and not be subsumed into political processes, a leading international medical humanitarian organization said on Feb. 28, 2013.  Responding to United Nations’ statements about integrating humanitarian assistance into the ongoing international military campaign in Somalia, Jerome Oberreit, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Secretary General, said in a press release that politicizing humanitarian aid puts Somalis and aid workers responding to the crisis “in even greater danger.” Although the famine was officially declared over last February, a MSF report based on interviews with more than 800 Somalis, says humanitarian need and access remains a challenge, especially to nearly two million people living in the south and central parts of the country.

Calls Increase for Independent Investigation of MSF Hospital Bombing

Doctors Without Borders will hand over a petition asking President Obama to conduct an independent investigation into the October bombing of its hospital in Afghanistan at a White House rally on December 9. The petition, which gathered more than half a million signatures, calls for an independent international investigation into the events of October 3 by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law. 

Study: The Future of Humanitarian Security in Fragile Contexts by EISF

June 19, 2014

The European Interagency Security Forum published The Future of Humanitarian Security in Fragile Contexts, An Analysis of Transformational Factors Affecting Humanitarian Action in the Coming Decade, a report on the evolving landscape of humanitarian action.  It finds that humanitarian action has seen  massive changes resulting in a need for increase security for organizations working in conflict areas.  For example there are now many more parties involved, including governments, private sect

Study: Communications technology and humanitarian delivery: challenges and opportunities for security risk management.

November 21, 2014

European Interagency Security Forum published Communications technology and humanitarian delivery: challenges and opportunities for security risk management in October 2014. Here is their summary:

The articles contained in this publication are dispatches from a new frontline in humanitarian action: the digital frontier. All are written by those observing, experiencing and attempting to respond to the challenges created by the digital revolution and the very real threats it is creating for humanitarian operations. Our aim is to explore the potential of new tools to create a safer, more responsive operational environment for aid workers. (A section by section abstract follows.)

Study: Host States Key in Protection of Aid Workers

October 3, 2013

Host States and Their Impact on Security for Humanitarian Operations, released by Humanitarian Outcomes, aims to explore why major violence against aid workers is increasingly concentrated in a small number of extremely insecure countries. The findings suggest that attacks on humanitarian aid workers are mainly a symptom of state failure as well as a byproduct of war.

ICRC: Video Games Should Reflect Laws of Armed Conflict

October 1, 2013

As electronic first-person shooter games become more realistic, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) believes there is a need for respecting international humanitarian law in video games. In particular, the ICRC is concerned that certain game scenarios, such as indiscriminate violence toward civilians, torture, and deliberate attacks on aid workers and medical facilities, could contribute to the perception that these illegal acts are not serious violations of the law of armed conflict.  So, the ICRC has released a short video and FAQ document and has begun working with video game developers to help them accurately incorporate the laws of armed conflict in their games.  

"Video games that are representing battlefields, contemporary battlefields, are very close to reality," ICRC’s Francoid Senechaud told the BBC. “So we are arguing that we have to get even closer to reality and that we have to include the rules of the laws of conflict."

Database Tracks Major Incidents of Violence Toward Aid Workers

May 11, 2011

The Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) is a global compilation of major incidents of violence against aid workers from 1997 through the present. It is a project of Humanitarian Outcomes.  

Around the world, aid workers providing humanitarian assistance are at risk due to real or perceived association with military or foreign policy agendas. To curb this, it is imperative that aid workers be able to maintain their neutrality and impartiality from government interference when conducting their operations. Learn more….