Aid Organisations in Afghanistan: Taking Aim at Aid

The predicament of Margaret Hassan as a hostage in Iraq has pointed painfully to the vulnerability of aid workers – no longer automatically regarded as neutral. The dangers are apparent in Afghanistan too, where three UN workers were kidnapped. To make matters worse, western and local forces deliberately mix charitable projects with military missions.

The World Today Updated 19 October 2020 Published 1 December 2004 4 minute READ

Gillian Sandford

Guardian and Observer correspondent in Belgrade

In just one day this autumn, five security warnings dropped into the mail boxes of aid workers in Afghanistan, providing a salutary picture of working conditions in the country. The main dangers were:

  • Illegal checkpoints had been established in the capital, Kabul, operated by men looking for aid workers and government employees
  • Taliban elements were stopping private vehicles in the central province of Wardak, seeking election staff, government and international aid workers
  • A rocket was fired at a non- government organisation (NGO) compound in the western province of Badghis after a series of warning letters
  • A $3,000 ransom was being offered for any foreigner killed in Badghis
  • Three vehicles – believed to be car bombs – are heading toward the western city of Herat
  • A bomb had exploded at a girls’ school sponsored by an NGO

This was not an extraordinary day.

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