NGOs in Afghanistan are often the first line of response for those in need. In 2017, through the support of NGOs alongside other humanitarian actors, well over 3.4 million people across Afghanistan received food, water, shelter and other life-saving assistance to meet their most basic needs1.
“It is of the upmost importance that NGOs are able to act in circumstances of extreme humanitarian need, including in situations of armed conflict, with the assurance that their personnel, their property, and their activities will not be directly or indirectly attacked”, states Fiona Gall, director of ACBAR.
Such an atrocious attack is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. We therefore demand a rapid, independent and transparent investigation into how and why this incident occurred.
This is not an isolated incident. Attacks on humanitarian workers are a common occurrence in Afghanistan. Over the last year, there have been 156 attacks on aid workers committed by actors involved in the current conflict. This includes 17 aid workers who have been killed as they attempted to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance including food, safe drinking water and healthcare to those most in need.
Attacks on humanitarian actors are attacks on the people we are trying to serve. Ultimately, any attack, intimidation, violence or threat against aid workers will result in delays in aid implementation or even the withdrawal of aid altogether - negatively impacting the welfare of the most vulnerable people of Afghanistan.
The provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance is a neutral act, protected under International Humanitarian Law. We call on all parties to the Afghan conflict to respect the neutrality of NGOs, their staff and their facilities, as well as to respect International Humanitarian Law, which provides protection to aid workers and civilians.
“Across the world, the number of violent attacks against aid workers is increasing. It is taking place in a context of “normalization” of the use of violence against civilians and aid workers in conflicts settings. It is an overall erosion of respect humanity and humanitarian work”, says Kinga Komorowska (Country Director, Action Against Hunger).
Despite the United Nations Security Resolution 2175 (2014) condemning all attacks on aid workers, a culture of impunity continues to exist. Following discussions at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, as NGOs operating in Afghanistan, we re-emphasise the need for all actors to respect International Humanitarian Law and to condemn all attacks on aid workers and civilians. As a concrete commitment to the protection of all aid workers, we call upon the international system to explore legal and judicial mechanisms to ensure protection of our staff from violence, as well as accountability after violence has been perpetrated, with the introduction of a Special Representative for Strengthening the Protection of Aid Workers.
Concrete action is needed to ensure protection of all aid-workers as we, the NGO-community in Afghanistan continue in our work to support those most in need in Afghanistan.
Please find attached the list of 61 NGO signatories and ACBAR contacts.