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Humanitarian workers are under threat in sub-Saharan Africa. Can Nigeria be an exception?

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By Dayo Adesulu

Mid-year 2019 data on aid worker security incidents shows that 9 humanitarian workers have been killed, 13 kidnapped and 17 wounded in sub-Saharan Africa, according to research based on the Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD).1 This toll is a result of 25 incidents that took place across 10 sub-Saharan countries including Nigeria, where two deaths are recorded so far in two separate incidents. Analysis of past trends shows that the numbers of attacks on humanitarian workers in the region is likely to increase through the end of 2019. Can Nigeria be an exception?

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Attacks on Aid Workers in sub-Saharan Africa by the number of people affected in 2019 (until mid-June). Bar charts show breakdown of outcomes by color. Two attacks in Nigeria are highlighted on the map, and two deaths are recorded in the country in 2019 so far.

1 Humanitarian Outcomes 2019, Aid Worker Security Database, accessed 11 June 2019. records major incidents of violence against aid workers worldwide. This project is supported by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance at USAID.

The analysis in this article uses the visual analytics platform for the Aid Worker Security Database created by Keshif.

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Humanitarian personnel are the aid workers who manage and develop emergency response programmes within designated geographical areas that have been subjected to war, natural disasters or other environmental or developmental problems. As first responders to those in need and impacted by conflict, humanitarian personnel, both citizens and internationals, have subjected themselves to immense risk, including losing their lives.

Based on research, a United Nations Population Fund report concludes that conflict has been one of the leading drivers of humanitarian crises around the world. Such has been the case with Nigeria, where conflict dynamics move across ethnic lines, religious groups, resources, and insurgency. Conflict and instability in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country, has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than two million people to flee. The conflict has turned into a regional humanitarian crisis, also affecting neighbouring countries: Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In addition, Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has been active and committing atrocious crimes in the north.

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The list of incidents recorded in Nigeria. The figures show people affected by gender (unknown gender shown as gray). Colours show the attack context as recorded in the Aid Worker Security Database.

Analysis of the available data suggests that Nigeria is among the 10 most dangerous places for aid workers to operate in the last decade, not because of the frequency of attacks but because of their lethality.


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