August 26, 2009

Governments block humanitarian aid

by Sara Levy

Governments are blocking aid agencies from providing humanitarian assistance in regions of violent conflict, a Catholic relief group has claimed.

Caritas Internationalis (CI), which helps 24 million per year in 200 countries and territories, said its efforts to support the most vulnerable people in the world have been severely hampered by governments in the past 18 months.

“From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Georgia to Gaza, Sri Lanka to Sudan, we’re seeing the erosion of one of the central pillars of humanitarianism,” said Alistair Dutton, CI humanitarian director.

“Aid agencies must be allowed to reach the most vulnerable people in conflicts.”

In Zimbabwe, all aid agency field operations were suspended after the contested elections, while Sudan’s government has expelled 13 International aid charities from the wartorn Darfur region.

CI made the comments to coincide with the first World Humanitarian Day, last Wednesday.

“Governments must use this first World Humanitarian Day reassert their commitment to safeguarding this principle as part of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions,” Dutton said.

Last year 260 humanitarian aid workers were murdered, kidnapped, or severely injured; this is compared to just 69 incidents a decade ago.

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