Aid workers facing greater peril in Afghanistan

Dec. 2, 2013 at 1:17 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Attacks on aid workers have skyrocketed in Afghanistan this year, making it the most dangerous nation to carry out relief work, U.N. officials say.

Figures from the United Nations show there were 237 attacks on aid workers through November, with 36 people killed and 46 wounded, up from 175 attacks, 11 killed and 26 wounded during the first 11 months of 2012, The New York Times reported Monday.

"We are looking at the situation with concern about what are clearly increasing numbers of aid workers affected by the conflict," Mark Bowden, humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in Kabul, told the U.S. newspaper.

"The nature of the fighting has changed. You have more disseminated ground-level fighting than you've had before, a change of tactics by handing over the fighting to the Afghan national security forces. Civilian casualties have increased, more widespread displacement of people."

Many officials with aid organizations are loath to point fingers of blame, but the Times noted the Taliban have taken responsibility for many of the attacks. The number of foreign aid workers in the country has declined over the past five years as a result of rising concerns about security, the newspaper said.

"I'm really worried," said Justine Piquemal, director of Acbar, a group representing many non-governmental organizations doing relief work in Afghanistan. "Because, unfortunately, figures show clearly we are the very worst place in the world for aid workers."

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