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Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, DR Congo – in all these countries the help of People in Need would not be possible without local humanitarian workers

Foto: PIN Archive / Jan Mrkvicka

Prague (17th of August 2016) – At the occasion of the World Humanitarian Day on the 19th of August we commemorate all the humanitarian workers who, doing their work, often risk their lives. According to the data from The Aid Worker Security database, only within the last year 283 humanitarian workers were killed, kidnapped or injured. Of these people who were facing such danger in their work during the past years 90 % were local employees. In 2015, only 7 from the total of 109 people who lost their life were from foreign countries. The organisation People in Need (PIN) that secures humanitarian and development aid in more than 22 countries in the world could not do without the work of the local employees either. “People often do not realize that it is not a bunch of adventurers doing the job abroad but most of all the local people,” Jan Mrkvicka, the director of the Humanitarian and Development Section of PIN explains. “From our more than 1.500 employees who directly participate on the running of our missions there is always a ratio of approximately eight foreign workers including ones from the Czech Republic to one hundred local colleagues. In addition to this we cooperate with more than a hundred local organisations,” he notes.

The death of nine Afghan colleagues

This year PIN commemorated the greatest tragedy in its history when there were nine local colleagues killed in an attack on the office in Afghanistan in June last year. “At the beginning of June the team members from the Afghan mission met to pay tribute to the memory of their colleagues who were brutally murdered on the 2nd of June last year in the Balkh Province. The relatives and friends of the victims as well as employees of other non-profit organisations and representatives of the civil service and local administrations attended the remembrance ceremony,” Wail Khazal, the director of the PIN mission in Afghanistan, describes the situation.

Aid workers at People in Need's missions

The murder of the local colleagues was a great blow to everybody and left its marks on how the work is being done here since. “In the past twelve months several passive points of security in all local offices have been significantly strengthened. Preventive measures have been increased, too, aiming at minimalizing the risk of the tragedy being repeated. After these precautions we successfully relaunched our programs supporting the poor farmers, women and youth in the poor districts, students of agriculture and other groups of population endangered by poverty, and we are determined to continue to participate on the development of Afghanistan and support their citizens’ efforts,” Wail Khazal adds.

The Ukrainians, Syrians and Iraqis are helping in their war-devastated homelands

Because of the long war conflict and on-going fights millions of civilians in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq depend on humanitarian help. According to the data from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) of the United Nations 13.5 millions of people in Syria, 3.1 millions in Ukraine and 10 millions of people in Iraq need humanitarian aid. “Through our field humanitarian work we are exposed – every now and then – to many dangerous accidents such as the regime airstrikes on civil neighbourhoods as well as to some problems with armed groups sometimes. This is really annoying and frightening, but, gradually, our feeling of fear started to be less important than the feeling of our ability to help the needy through our work. This has really become a motivation for going on and forward in our humanitarian work,” he observes.

During the sniper fire in the civilian quarters in the south of Aleppo in 2014 three local PIN employees died. The help in the country continues, however. Besides the material and financial support and the distribution of food PIN focuses on the educational support as well as on helping the farmers to preserve their agricultural production.

The fights in the eastern Ukraine do not cease either. Despite the truce that has been negotiated the number of the civilian casualties keeps rising. PIN is helping the most vulnerable people on the both sides of the Ukrainian front since 2014. “The work in PIN is my calling. Sometimes it is challenging and it always hurts the most to see innocent people suffering,” Sergey Saenko confesses. He fled from Donetsk and later became a volunteer, working for various organisations, helping to evacuate people living near the front. For PIN he has been working since September 2014. “Last year PIN was funding evacuation of Avdeevka residents, in time when the town was severely shelled. I remember shells failing right behind my back. I feared for my life, but I feared the most for lives of people that we took responsibility for. But I knew that I had to be there and nowhere else. And this is exactly why I am with PIN. I know that I have to be here doing what I am doing."

The knowledge of the local language and culture is important

The humanitarian crisis in the world led to a strong migration wave, the strongest since the end of the World War II. According to the numbers provided by the UN only within the area of Iraq there are 3.3 millions of internally displaced people waiting to be able to return to their homes. That is the group of people on whom PIN focuses – they flee predominantly from the areas ruled over by the so called Islamic State. This would not be possible without the help of the local humanitarian workers.

“In Iraq our local employees are truly essential. With their knowledge of the local language and culture they help us to find our feet in this relatively complicated situation in a country torn by a yearlong ethnic-religious conflict,” Nada Aliova, the coordinator of the PIN programmes in Syria and Iraq says. “These people work for us because they are not indifferent to what is happening in their country. Without their determination to help we could hardly react quickly enough to any worsening of the humanitarian situation that we expect as a cause of the planned offensive at Mosul.”

Overcoming the traumatizing experiences

The work of the humanitarian workers is very important in the regions damaged by natural disasters as well. In April 2015 a devastating earthquake hit Nepal and left 9.000 people dead and 22.000 injured. PIN immediately sent there an emergency team. The complete reconstruction and restoration of the country is going slowly, however. That is why the PIN activities in Nepal continue and move from the distribution of the humanitarian help on to new directions. “What attracted me to working for PIN were their projects in the rural parts of Nepal, in Sindhupalchok and Gorkha District, where they were working with women and adolescent girls who are often victims of violence in the times of emergency,” Vijaya Pun describes her beginnings. She herself now manages the programs aimed to protect the most vulnerable groups like women and children. “PIN has provided us the platform where we can share our knowledge with the people of our own country who are a bit behindhand and really needs our help. Hence, I can say that the works of protection we have been doing in rural areas on behalf of PIN have provided me enormous satisfaction and motivation to do more social works in future.”

“While working on our projects we see a lot of cases of gender based violence. We are helping the rape victims, the victims of sexual assaults, discrimination or psychical abuse. Most of these people are afraid to talk about these problems. That’s why we inform them about their rights, we work with them in special groups and help to rebuild their confidence,” a colleagueJenisha Twanabasu who works with PIN since September 2015 shares her experience. “I chose this work because it makes sense. Often I have a feeling that I’m helping my own sisters and brothers to overcome a difficult times, to face traumatic experience and to overcome it.”

The determination and motivation

Poverty, illiteracy, acute undernourishment, lack of drinking water – that is all just a part of the problems that Africa has been dealing with for a long time. With the help of the local employees, PIN is helping in Angola, Ethiopia, South Sudan and DR Congo. “In DR Congo we managed to put together a team of responsible and well-motivated Congolese humanitarian workers who, despite many obstacles that they had to face, remain positive and determined. I have already seen several different teams and always found common ground with them. I sincerely respect all my colleagues because you can learn something from each and one of them,” Karolina Sklebena, the head of the PIN mission in DR Congo, managing a team of three foreign and 37 local employees, describes their situation. “From my position as the head of the mission I am also responsible for the safety of my colleagues. If I made a mistake I could endanger someone’s health or life. Fortunately I have a great team of people with me with whom I can talk before making any essential decision.” You can read the whole interview with Karolina Sklebena here.

Bomb attack in Baghdad in 2003

The World Humanitarian Day was designated by the UN on the 19th of August after 22 humanitarian workers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, died in a bomb attack in Baghdad in 2003. This day is dedicated to all humanitarian workers who risk their lives in their work and more and more often become targets of attack. PIN is no exception – every year on the 19th of August the organisation shows its respect to everybody who help others in dangerous regions, and pays homage to all who lost their life at it.

The humanitarian and developing aid is only possible thanks to the institutional support and the support of the Czech public – these all are contributing through the PIN Club of Friends, Real Gift and the fund-raising Real Help. People in Need sincerely thanks to all donors for their support.

For more information please contact:

Jan Mrkvicka, the director of the Humanitarian and Development Section of PIN, +420 777 787 961

Jan.Mrkvicka@clovekvtisni.cz  

Tomas Kocian, the coordinator of the humanitarian help in PIN, +420 777 787 970

Tomas.Kocian@peopleinneed.cz

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