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Aid Groups Under Fire

Aid Groups Under FireInternational humanitarian aid groups are rethinking their efforts in Iraq – and other war-torn regions – following a string of deadly attacks. Boston.

Boston [11.03.03] Following a new wave of deadly bombings, the International Committee of the Red Cross decided to withdraw the majority of its staff from Iraq - citing the growing frequency of attacks against international aid groups in the region. The recent violence, says a Tufts expert, appears to indicate that a new generation of terrorists is setting their sights on humanitarian workers in an effort to shift the balance of power.

"[According to Tufts' Larry Minear], for the first time, aid workers are not just getting caught in the crossfire - they are deliberately being targeted for who they are and what they do," reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "And that, he said, changes the whole ballgame."

The result has been a series of withdrawals by aid groups that fear they can no longer safely work in Iraq - leaving available staff and resources in short supply.

"Are aid groups rethinking their activities? Definitely, yes," Minear - the director of the Humanitarianism and War Project at Tufts - told the Journal-Constitution.

To address the issues, Minear and his colleagues - who are based in the Alan Shawn Feinstein International Famine Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy - recently organized a conference in Boston to bring aid workers together to discuss the growing threat of violence. The timing of the meeting only reinforced the immediacy of the issues facing the groups.

"The meeting came in the wake of the devastating Aug. 19th attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23 people, including the head of the mission," reported the newspaper. "Several weeks later, a suicide bomber struck a police checkpoint outside the same building."

Last week, the Red Cross was targeted by a massive car bomb, which killed 10 and injured dozens. Each new attack, Minear said, indicates that the trend is only getting worse.

"The fact that the International Red Cross has been targeted is particularly ominous," the Tufts expert told the Journal-Constitution. "It is the most studiously neutral."

That may be the ultimate goal. The terrorists appear to realize that targeting aid groups does more than just claim lives - it also weakens efforts to rebuild Iraq.

"Private agencies funnel roughly 30 percent of the world's $100 billion in aid each year," reported the newspaper. "These organizations, Minear said, have to figure out ways to keep the aid flowing without putting themselves at additional risk."

And, for many organizations, the decision to help in future conflicts will require a lot more thought and planning.

"Minear said aid groups will be forced to spend more time analyzing a crisis situation before jumping headfirst into perilous front lines," reported the Journal-Constitution. "That could leave vulnerable people without aid."

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