Attack us where we work, attack us where we sleep.

UN staff attacked in Kabul

After the devastating suicide bomb in our office in Islamabad three weeks ago, I knew it was going to be bad day when the first Twitter message I saw this morning was: "UN guesthouse in Kabul attacked, 5 staff dead".

From the NY Times:
The guests were still sleeping when the gunmen, dressed in police uniforms, arrived early Wednesday. In the dark, they shot the guards, scaled the front gate of the guest house and began firing grenades, the beginning of a terrifying two-hour siege that showed just how little it takes for the Taliban to trap foreigners in central Kabul.

By the end of the siege, at least five United Nations employees, two Afghan security officials and the brother-in-law of a prominent Afghan politician were dead, as were their three attackers. (Full)

2008 was a record year in terms of casualties amongst aid workers. 2009 promises to be even worse. I keep track of most of these attacks on The Road Daily.

It is only weeks ago I wrote:
It is strange.. It is only after the hours go by that the cruelty and the reality of the act today really seeps through... And the consciousness that if we are to work in a higher risk environment, there actually is not one place, where one is totally safe. Where would that be? In the office? They drive a truck through the gates and blow it up. In the guesthouse or the hotel? Same thing...(Full)

This is the dilemma we, aidworkers, face today: We are nowhere safe anymore. Terrorism, banditry, sheer violence. And we can not isolate ourselves from the communities we are suppose to serve. We can not lock ourselves up in fortresses, as the US did with their embassies worldwide after the bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. We need to be "there", we need to be where the aid is required. We need to do the assessments, we need to monitor to ensure the aid goes where it is supposed to go. But slowly, the violence makes it impossible to do our work properly. And who suffers? Those in need. As always.

Picture courtesy Altaf Qadri/Associated Press


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