Humanitarian aid workers – like World Moses Mukitale, a communication offiver – and children should never be the target during conflict.
On World Humanitarian Day, we remember and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service. This year, we are demanding that leaders do all that is possible to protect and prevent the deliberate targeting of civilians and aid workers. Civilians are not a target; aid workers are not a target!
Six. That’s the maximum number of weeks I have spent away from my husband. That’s 1008 hours. That’s 60,480 minutes. By day 2, I was already weighing the possibility of changing my air ticket and returning home to see him. Now, before you judge me, I’m newly married. Ask me how I feel about being away from my husband in a couple of years. Assuming that this feeling does not go away and that all my World Vision colleagues who spend time away from their loved ones agree, I cannot imagine spending a prolonged period of time away from my husband.
So, when a colleague informed me that he spends an average of six months a year away from his young family, I could feel my insides tighten, anxious of the thought of being away from my husband for six months or more. He has a beautiful wife and two young daughters. He tells me they wake him up every Saturday morning when he is home and even though he looks forward to resting, he also looks forward to them cutting his sleep short. He pulls out his phone and proudly flips through pictures of them. You can see the pride of a father on his face. They are growing up quickly, and take note of his absence. I imagine how difficult it must be for him to be away from them. I can imagine him comforting them and telling them he will be home soon. During our visits to communities, I also see his dedication and passion to the people we work with. I see it in the way he listens and addresses their concerns. I see it in the way he interacts with the community. He cares genuinely.
Many of my colleagues in the field spend extended periods of time away from their families. And many are in areas far from being considered tourist destinations. Places where aid workers increasingly face obstacles when providing assistance. Their very work is a direct risk to their lives but are driven by their commitment and passion to provide assistance to the most vulnerable. They want to play a part in transforming nations and creating a better world for their children even when they put their own lives in danger.
Over the last 20 years, 4168 aid workers have been kidnapped, wounded or killed. An overwhelming majority are national staff. Except for 2013 which saw 475 victims due to the crises in South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, there has been an average of 278 victims a year in the past 11 years. Aid workers are deliberately targeted in many parts of the world. This directly prevents them from saving lives. Since January 2017, the number of people needing humanitarian aid has risen by 12.5 million people to 141.1 million people in 37 countries. In order for assistance to be provided, aid workers cannot be targeted.
I live in a country where I can sleep at night without fear. I hope our children will never know what it feels like to flee their homes in order to stay alive. I hope they never witness violence. It is because of my hopes, that I cannot help but want the same for children around the world. It is in knowing this that I understand why aid workers brave the dangers of providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed.