Abductions and attacks - the work of development aid workers is beset with risks, not least in African countries. This is documented in a new report by German NGO Welthungerhilfe.
Children in a camp for displaced persons in South Sudan
The work of non governmental organizations is particularly challenging in the sub-Saharan countries of Africa. The political upheavals in North Africa had led to a militarization of the region, said Wolfgang Jamann, general secretary of German NGO Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as German Agro Action) at the presentation of the organization's annual report in Berlin on Tuesday (03.06.2014). Extremists "of the most various hues" were spreading across the Sahel region, he said, and many former soldiers and mercenaries who had fought in Libya had now joined al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. This conflict environment was increasingly affecting the work of development aid organizations and hindering access to the people in the region who needed aid most, for example in South Sudan.
Fears of wider destabilization
According to Welthungerhilfe's figures, around a million people have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict in the world's newest state. There are areas that can only be reached by aid packages dropped from helicopters, said Welthungerhilfe President Bärbel Dieckmann.
Bärbel Dieckmann presented the Welthungerhilfe report in Berlin
The work is made even more difficult by the rainy season that has now begun, as there are hardly any asphalt roads in the country. Dieckmann fears there could be a serious food emergency in the coming six to nine months if the ongoing fighting between groups loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing his rival Riek Machar continue to prevent people from sowing seeds for next year's harvest. Welthungerhilfe has issued an appeal to the international community and to the African Union to work for an end to the fighting. "There must be an interest in bringing stability to this part of Africa," Dieckmann told DW. Not least because the fighting in South Sudan could fuel a destabilization of the region and endanger peace and the progress that had been achieved elsewhere, Dieckmann said, pointing to recent terrorist attacks targeting Kenya.
Welthungerhilfe is financed by donations from private citizens and grants from institutions such as the German foreign ministry and the European Union. In 2013 it spent some 140 million euros ($190 million) on projects abroad. Emergency aid projects were implemented in South Sudan, Syria and the Philippines, to name just a few. The NGO marked its 50th anniversary in 2012 and pledged to continue the fight for a common goal:"The right for people to lead their lives autonomously in dignity and justice - free from hunger and poverty."
No solution in sight for Syria
Turning to Syria, Dieckmann said many cities there had been destroyed to such an extent that they reminded her of Germany immediately after the Second World War. "There are practically only ruins there," she said. The elections currently being held in Syria, which have been widely criticized by the international community, will have no effect on the acute humanitarian situation, Dieckmann predicted. There was no solution in sight as "the conflict parties are making no moves to close the gap between them."
There has been massive destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo
This means Syria now ranks among the world's worst humanitarian crisis spots "which have never before been so many or so varied," said Wolfgang Jamann. The mobile emergency aid teams which Welthungerhilfe sends to regions of severe crisis were in action almost non-stop last year. The fact that many crises happened simultaneously made it increasingly difficult for the organization to reach its long term goals. Shortages of personnel were also a problem, as aid workers are increasingly becoming the targets of a kidnapping industry and of terrorist attacks.
Author Naomi Conrad / sh
Editor Mark Caldwell
Related Subjects Syria
Keywords Welthungerhilfe, South Sudan, Syria, Bärbel Dieckmann