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Aid-workers face considerable, multiple challenges

We all tend to admire those who put life and limb at risk to travel to far-off countries to work for organisations such as the Red Cross, Medicin sans Frontier, Oxfam and the like, to be what we commonly call aid workers.   But there is a cost for these people.    They are now at risk of being killed or kidnapped - and then to suffer post-traumatic stress.    That is the point made in this piece "Humanitarian workers risk their lives to help others and they deserve more support" in The Age newspaper.

"Nowadays, targeted attacks and bombings of healthcare facilities are not an aberration. They are part of a trend. Only very recently we witnessed the terrible bombing of hospitals in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as well as in Yemen and Syria, killing dozens of innocent health workers and patients.

Over the past three years, almost 1000 aid workers experienced violence that resulted in either death or injury. These people are much more than a statistic. This year, in Yemen, two Red Crescent volunteers, brothers Khaled and Mohammed Bahuzaim​, were shot dead while trying to evacuate people wounded in the city of Aden. In Mali, a Red Cross volunteer named Hamadoun​ was ambushed and shot while driving an aid truck to fetch equipment for a hospital. In Syria, Israa al-Habash​ died when two bombs hit her relief convoy, which was delivering 20,000 vaccines for children and a dialysis machine for patients with renal failure.

The direct impact of each attack is immense. The indirect results are even more widespread. Consider the suffering experienced by tens of thousands of people who no longer have access to life-saving medical care. Routine cases such as child birth, fractures and other ailments become life-threatening. Brittle and damaged healthcare systems are stretched to breaking point. In Chechnya, years passed after my colleagues were murdered before Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies returned.

Consider also the invisible cost that humanitarian workers are paying: the stress and trauma from working in insecure environments, experiencing and witnessing acts of violence and the suffering they cause. A recent survey by The Guardian revealed that up to 79 per cent of aid workers experienced mental-health issues as a result of their work. Nearly a third of all aid workers suffer from trauma – several times the rate of the general population, according to a study by the Antares Foundation."

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