UN humanitarian chief condemns increasing violence against aid workers

20 July 2009

The top United Nations humanitarian official today deplored the growing number of attacks against aid workers, while highlighting that the effects of natural and man-made disasters on people’s lives would become more devastating.

John Holmes, Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that he was increasingly horrified by the attacks on humanitarian workers, who he noted gave their energies and lives to helping others and were often treated with hostility, suspicion and violence in return.

In his opening address to the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment in Geneva, Mr. Holmes warned that so far in 2009 the complexity and nature of emergencies had taken an even heavier toll than in previous years.

He said that many of the adverse trends plaguing the humanitarian community in recent years, showed no signs of slowing, citing as examples last year’s Sichuan earthquake in China, which caused over 87,000 deaths and some $85 billion in damages, and hurricane Ike in the United States, which left losses of around $30 billion in its trail.

Mr. Holmes added that while long-running conflicts in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the occupied Palestinian territories, and Somalia continued to disrupt the lives of millions, new outbreaks of hostilities in Pakistan and the recent offensive by Sri Lankan Government forces aimed at ending its decades-long struggle with Tamil rebels had forced hundreds of thousands more people into desperate situations.

This year’s annual session of ECOSOC, which serves as the central UN forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations, kicked off on 6 July.


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