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UN: include aid worker health and safety at the World Humanitarian Summit

UN: include aid worker health and safety at the World Humanitarian Summit
  
  

 


Why this is important

In the last 15 years, aid work has become an ever-deadlier profession. Since 2000, 2,913 national staff have been killed or injured for their work, along with 544 internationals. Hundreds of others have been kidnapped or violently assaulted.

The danger is not just physical. It is mental and psychological. Numerous studies have shown aid workers suffer from high-levels of anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, and burnout. According to one study, 30% of aid workers return from deployment with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). National aid workers are more seriously affected than international staff.

Behind these statistics are terrible stories: of breakdowns, alcoholism, divorce and years of suffering, of families left bereft when a loved one is killed or maimed. We all know so many who have suffered burnout and worse but who do not speak out for fear their careers will suffer, or of being seen as weak.

Many aid workers, especially national aid workers working in their own countries, either don’t have life insurance, invalidity or medical insurance, or have insufficient insurance. Those who suffer psychologically are rarely provided with adequate help.

As a result, the humanitarian world is losing experienced, dedicated staff every day.

To deliver principled, accountable and high-quality humanitarian action, we must ensure that communities and people affected by crisis receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers.

We believe that this is one of the most significant challenges facing humanitarian response today. The aid industry is nothing without the thousands of dedicated staff who make it work: international and local, contractors and volunteers.

If the aid industry is to deliver, it must support and retain its staff. More importantly, the people behind these statistics, and the communities they assist, deserve better.

As aid workers we demand that policies reflecting the highest standards of quality and accountability are in place for the security and the wellbeing of staff. We should not have to choose between our health and our work. If we are to Reshape Aid, this must be addressed.

We call on all participants of the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit to recognise the physical, emotional and mental suffering aid workers endure during the course of their work and to include staff welfare as a key issue in the Summit.

We call on the UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen
O'Brien and all involved in the World Humanitarian Summit to:

1. Invest systematically in caring for the physical, mental and psychological welfare of their staff.

2. Establish a mechanism to ensure all aid workers have access to adequate support in the event of illness or injury, particularly for national aid workers.

3. Support the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability. We are not reinventing the wheel. Building on the People in Aid Code, all humanitarian agencies, including the UN Secretariat engaged in humanitarian work, should commit to Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability and beyond to ensure it informs the way they interact with their staff. But we know policy commitments to improve staff welfare have not worked in the past. We call on donors to fund organizations committed to the CHS and its accountability mechanisms.

4. Support the establishment of a Global Humanitarian Association to advocate for the rights of aid workers and their families globally.

5. Establish a mechanism for tracking the well being of current and former aid workers, including contractors and volunteers and national staff.

#BeWellServeWell

Photo: "Haiti" Amy Brathwaite
http://www.amybrathwaite.com

Lead author: Brendan McDonald http://7piliers.com

The original inspiration for the petition can be found at:

http://7piliers.com/post/124236918507/beyondthecasualtystatistics

Posted July 21, 2015
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