Earlier this week, a horrific attack in rural Aleppo killed around twenty civilians and one Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) staff member as they were unloading trucks carrying vital humanitarian aid. The attack hit a SARC warehouse and an aid convoy, leaving much of the aid destroyed and depriving thousands of civilians of much-needed food and medical assistance. In response, the ICRC’s Middle East Director Robert Mardini wrote a compelling op-ed on BBC.com, Viewpoint: Why It is Unconscionable to Attack Syria's Aid Workers.
Unfortunately, the obligation to respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel, relief items and persons and objects displaying the distinctive emblem seems to be increasingly ignored in today’s conflicts. In addition, civilians, doctors and health facilities, which are also protected persons and objects under IHL, often bear a disproportionate burden as the result of contemporary armed conflict. But as ICRC President Peter Maurer reminded world leaders at a panel on South Sudan during this week’s United Nations General Assembly, "Even though IHL is widely violated, it still saves lives every day."
In this week’s roundup, we take a look at some of the conversations and discussions happening around the protection of aid workers as portrayed by the media and other online outlets.**
From the Guardian
Earlier this week members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) group were among those killed during an attack on a convoy bringing relief to the city of Aleppo. In this article, the Guardian looks at the critical work the organization’s volunteers do every single day.
From Wall Street Journal
As Matina Stevis writes, aid workers and assets have always been vulnerable in South Sudan, but the manner in which they were singled out this summer marks a watershed moment as the economy has tanked. The international community here is nearing an hour of reckoning, trying to figure out how to aid a nation it helped create without calling out those responsible for sending it toward its demise. Aid agencies fear that speaking out against government abuses will further undermine staff security in the country and could get them kicked out, leaving millions of people without aid.
From World Politics Review
As Betcy Jose writes, once taboo, the targeting of hospitals and health care providers in wartime has become such a frequent occurrence in today’s conflict zones that Médecins Sans Frontières now calls it the new normal. Attacks that previously seemed to occur unintentionally or sporadically now appear to be a deliberate strategy of war. This is particularly the case in Syria and Yemen, where hospitals and doctors are targeted so often that medical care now has to be provided in places such as caves and chicken coops in order to avoid detection by warring factions.
From Relief Web
According to Médecins Sans Frontières, civilians in Yemen needing health care are no longer traveling to facilities. “Now that the violence has resumed, traveling to seek care is life-threatening,” says Laurent Sury, MSF’s head of emergency programs. And the conflict is creating lots of indirect victims as well. They include people who are unable to access medical facilities for treatment – for example, patients requiring blood transfusions or women requiring emergency caesarean sections. Even where a medical facility is functioning, it will likely lack the capacity to provide medical care due to shortages of key supplies, personnel or medicine, or have no fuel to run its generator. Some health facilities are simply too dangerous to reach, so people have to make do without. On top of that, the war has caused Yemen’s economy to all but collapse, leaving many people with little or no income. Many have to choose between buying medicine and buying food for their family.
From the International Business Times
Mary Pascaline writes about a fresh airstrike in northern Syria which killed four medics belonging to Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), the relief group said Wednesday. UOSSM’s Zaydoun al Zoubi told the BBC that the two attacks were “not a coincidence. Somebody is trying to tell us humanitarian workers are not welcome in Syria, that we are a target, that we will be killed,” he said.
Stephen Ryan from The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement says the organization is in shock following an attack on an aid convoy in Syria. He repeated his call for continued humanitarian access to the country, whether there is a ceasefire or not.
Are you a writer, videographer, photographer or blogger publishing interesting stuff linked to armed conflict, international humanitarian law (a.k.a. the law of armed conflict), innovation, compassion, history, etc. that you think deserves a shout-out here? Send us a link and we might feature your content next week. Write to: nclark (at) icrc (dot) org