Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Incident: Vehicle Bombing (fatalities), Afghanistan

Two Afghans working for a Washington D.C.-based firm, Planning and Development Collaborative International (PADCO), were killed when their land cruiser struck a roadside bomb in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. Two Americans were injured in the attack. PADCO is under contract with USAID. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Security Incidents Map, Nepal

A map showing security incidents in Nepal from May 10 to May 23, 2006 is available at the UN Nepal Information Platform Web site.

Incident: Homicides, Afghanistan

Four Afghan staff members (three women and their male driver) of South African NGO ActionAid International were killed in Jawzjan province when a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on their vehicle. This marks the latest incident in a continuing series of attacks on humanitarian organizations and their staff in Afghanistan. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Incident: Riot/Compound Burning and Looting, Afghanistan

Fueled by anger over a traffic accident that killed a local resident and involved US military vehicles, Kabul erupted into violent protests. Anti-American sentiment carried over into the NGO community. According to a CNN report, "Rioters ransacked several buildings, including a compound belonging to the aid group CARE International. Computers were set on fire and smoke billowed from the buildings." More reports here, which suggest other NGO facilities were burned and looted. This quote is very telling, "Many people hate the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] because they see all this money coming into the country and they have not been able to get jobs. They were waiting for a day like today," says Ehsan, an Afghan security officer. Update: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting the CARE office is in ruins and that Oxfam and French NGO ACTED offices were looted. A photo of the burning CARE office is here. And additional quotes and commentary here.

Incident: Warehouse Looting, East Timor

A mob in Dili, East Timor broke into a government food distribution warehouse formerly run by the WFP. Australian troops arrived and the looters left. There were no reports of injuries.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

HIV Prophylaxis and Security Incidents

Interesting article about a drunken attacker in Germany who stabbed 28 people (no fatalities, although 15 victims were taken to hospitals with critical wounds) following the dedication of Berlin's new train station. All of the victims were receiving HIV medication after it was learned one the the people stabbed was HIV positive. According to the article there was about a 3 in 1,000 chance that a victim could be infected after being stabbed with the contaminated knife. The prophylaxis is supposed to reduce the odds by an additional 80%.

While some NGO field offices have HIV prophylaxis on hand and/or SOPs in place to administer it following the sexual assault of a staff member, I've never seen its use recommended in a safety or security plan following an incident where multiple people are stabbed, slashed or chopped with the same edged weapon. Something to consider and remember, especially if you're working in a blade-oriented culture.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Avian Flu News Resources

Several readers have written in requesting information on how to keep current with Avian Flu-related news. Here are a few of our favorite news sources that provide more depth and breadth than CNN, AlertNet, BBC, etc.:

CIDRAP Avian Influenza - University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Very credible, scientific and medical news reports.

SciDev.Net - Science and Development Network. Scientific reports and news. (Not as much information in terms of volume as other sites, but quite good.)

NewsNow: Bird Flu - UK news aggregation site that is updated every five minutes. Media sources from all over the world.

HEWS Web: Avian Influenza - Humanitarian Early Warning Service is an online WFP project with current news on a variety of natural incidents and events.

Friday, May 26, 2006

RedR-IHE Pre-Training Survey Report, Sudan

Jeff writes in with a pointer to RedR's Pre-Training Survey Report associated with security training the organization provided for NGOs operating in Darfur. Some good information is discussed in the summary, and the full report will eventually be posted at RedR's main IHE site.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Incident: Shooting, Gaza

A Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance was fired on by a militant while enroute to transport a patient. A medical technician inside the ambulance was wounded by the gunfire.

Incident: IED Attack, Iraq

A Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation mine survey staff member was severely burned when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in Northern Iraq. The VVAF employee and a colleague were in a taxi when the explosion took place. There was no information on whether the personnel were specifically targeted or not.

Sudan and Darfur Security Maps

The U.S. State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit has released a couple of maps showing the locations of security incidents in Darfur and Eastern Sudan from January to March of 2006. We've said it before and we'll say it again, maps are a powerful tool for better understanding multiple and ongoing security events.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Incident: H5N1 Cluster, Indonesia

Up until now the NGO Security Blog hasn't discussed issues dealing with Avian Flu (in particular the H5N1 strain). While there is a lot of concern over the possibility of a pandemic caused by the virus, human fatalities have remained low and the disease is still primarily spread only by direct contact with infected birds.

However an announcement yesterday by the World Health Organization suggests the virus may have mutated to a form that is transmitted from human-to-human. There have been seven flu deaths within a family in Indonesia, with no apparent evidence of contact with sick birds or animals. This is the largest cluster of fatalities that has been reported to date, and experts are assessing whether the virus has mutated into a new variety that can easily be passed between humans. (Keep in mind there have been previous cases where human transmission has been suspected, with no resulting pandemic.)

At this point WHO is not prepared to raise the pandemic warning system to the next highest level, but the situation bears watching. If a pandemic does occur, the safety and security implications are staggering. While most larger NGOs have convened working groups and developed pandemic response strategies, the reality is during a full-blown pandemic it will be like using a small Bandaid/plaster to save a patient that's severely bleeding.

Incident: Evacuation, Sudan

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced it was evacuating staff from areas in South Sudan due to tribal and militia fighting.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Safety Information Reporting Service (SIRS)

After a number of years of development, it appears the Safety Information Reporting Service (SIRS) is getting off the ground with a Web presence. SIRS, which is currently hosted by the Crisis Management Initiative, is ultimately designed to serve as a safety and security information sharing resource for the humanitarian community. This collaborative initiative is much-needed and long over due. Centralized incident reporting systems have been used by a variety of US government agencies for a number of years - one of the most notable successes is the aviation safety SAFECOM program. All too often important safety and security information that could benefit a wide variety of NGOs is kept internal within a single organization. SIRS is a step in the right direction in addressing this problem. Kudos to those involved and best wishes as the service evolves.

Incident: Mine (fatalities), Afghanistan

Four members of the Afghan Health Development Services aid group were killed by a land mine in the Jalrees district of Wardak province. It's unclear from reports whether the mine was command detonated and the group was targeted. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Incident: Arrest, West Bank Gaza

A British staff member from the UK-based charity Islamic Relief Worldwide was arrested and is being held by Israeli authorities. No details on why the arrest took place or when the humanitarian worker will be released.

Incident: Homicide, Sri Lanka

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports one of its national staff drivers was shot and killed outside of Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. It's unclear whether the attack was criminally or politically motivated. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Incident: Grenade Attacks, Sri Lanka

Three NGO offices (Non-Violent Peace Force, ZOA and Inter SOS) in Muttur, Sri Lanka were attacked with hand grenades. Injuries were reported and the government is blaming the LTTE while the LTTE is blames the military. This marks the second incident in the past several days where a Serbian humanitarian worker has been injured in an attack.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Incident: Crossfire Injury, Sri Lanka

A Serbian aid worker associated with the Non-violent Peace Force group was injured during an LTTE attack on Sri Lankan government personnel. This incident is being reported as the first foreign humanitarian worker casualty in the escalating conflict.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

UNICEF committed to Afghanistan

Following attacks that claimed the lives of two aid workers, UNICEF states it will continue work in Afghanistan. This comes as violence is increasing throughout the country (including what initially appears to be a pattern of attacks on UN vehicles). It will be interesting to see if the new influx of NATO peacekeepers can contain the insurgents, of if the country slips into the same situation as Iraq.

Insecurity affecting humanitarian work in Darfur

Short ICRC press release on the once again deteriorating security situation in Darfur.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Incident: Convoy Attack (fatalities), Afghanistan

A UN convoy traveling between Quala-I-Naw and Heart, Afghanistan was attacked with rocket propelled grenades and gunfire. Preliminary news reports indicate the UN vehicle was targeted (a police escort vehicle apparently was not attacked). A UNICEF driver and a doctor working with German NGO Malteser International were killed in the ambush with another UN staff member seriously wounded. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Friday, May 12, 2006

CNN Security Perspectives - Darfur

A CNN journalist reports on personal security issues while covering the Darfur beat.

OCHA Nepal Security Incidents Map

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a map of recent security incidents in Nepal here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Global Warming Interactive Flood Maps

Although rising sea levels due to global warming aren't an immediate problem, the threat does raise some interesting longterm safety and security issues for NGOs. To better understand the consequences, check out Alex Tingle's Web site. He combined Google Maps and NASA land elevation data to produce an interactive world map that shows which areas will be flooded. Specify a rise in sea level from 1 to 14 meters, and the submerged lands are shown shaded in blue. Quite educational and a little frightening. (Note: The site has been getting a lot of traffic lately, so if it doesn't work, try back later.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Missing Funds in Iraq

Interesting New York Times article about the US government investigating missing funds following the 2004 murder of human rights worker Fern Holland. Hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for development work in Iraq seem to have been misappropriated. No matter where you go, large amounts of cash always seems to encourage corruption.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Incident: Demonstration/attacks, Sudan

A violent demonstration at Kalma camp, near Nyala in south Darfur, forced UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland to cut short his visit after one of his translators was assaulted and vehicles were attacked. Oxfam withdrew six of its staff due to the situation. Details here and here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tourism Security and NGOs

I just finished reading a book called Tourism, Security and Safety: From Theory to Practice. Targeted towards university students in tourism and marketing programs, the book is a collection of papers written by different authors on various aspects of safety and security. If you think about it, safety and security is an important part of the tourism industry – safety and security incidents can easily cause a drop in tourist rates and have a huge economic impact. The book does a good job covering topics such as terrorism, disease, criminal victim selection, and crisis management; all in the context of tourism. (This is not a field manual per se, but approaches these subjects more from a security management perspective.)

The first chapter, Towards a Theory of Tourism Security, struck me as incredibly important. It discusses developing a "theory" for tourism security – a theory being "an attempt to predict and explain a phenomenon." In this case, the author seeks to develop a theory that answers such questions as:
  • Why security incidents such as crime, terrorism, wars, riots and civil unrest exist at tourist destinations
  • What are the motives of the perpetrators/offenders?
  • What are the impacts of such incidents?
  • How do the tourism industry, the tourists, the destination, the media, and the community react to the crises caused by such incidents?
  • What effective recovery methods can be undertaken by the public and private sectors at the destination?
  • What methods of prevention or reduction can be used by the destination in order to avoid or minimize the impacts of future security crises?
Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? The same issues we face doing NGO security.

The chapter successfully establishes a conceptual framework for practicing tourism security. It approaches the task academically yet delivers a set of easy to understand and apply core principles and fundamentals - many of which are directly applicable to NGO security.

This is something the NGO community could immensely benefit from (if you're able to get a copy of the book you'll immediately see what I'm talking about when you read the chapter). My hope is with an emerging academic interest in humanitarian safety and security issues, a professor or graduate student somewhere decides to work on a similar theory for NGO security.

(Note: The book is relatively expensive for its size and number of pages, with a typical inflated university textbook price. If you're on a budget, try tracking down a copy through your local library. It's a very worthwhile read that will make you think - outside the box.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Incident: Shooting, Chad

Nick writes in with word that a Spanish aid worker was shot and wounded in eastern Chad. The 37-year old female UNICEF employee was shot in the arm (she is in serious condition in a hospital in N'Djamena) while the assailant made off with her jeep. Additional details here. The security environment in the area continues to erode with numerous robberies and vehicle thefts.

Best wishes and a speedy recovery to the UNICEF staffer.

Friday, May 05, 2006

CARE Takes NATO to Task in Afghanistan

CARE International came out with a rather strongly worded press release calling for NATO to stop undertaking humanitarian actions in Afghanistan that put NGO staff member's lives at risk due to a blurring of the lines between military and aid operations.

The AlertNet Newsblog has a few more details that are worth quoting.

Talking to Howard Mollett, CARE International UK's Humanitarian Aid Advisor, a couple of interesting examples of military-NGO friction emerge. In the south, CARE's local partners were approached by the Taliban and told that as long as they continued to operate in the same way, they would not be targeted. But if they accepted funding from the military-led "provincial reconstruction team" (PRT), their security might be threatened.

Problems are not limited to security, with aid agencies saying military projects can undermine their own. In Afghanistan's Badghis province, one of CARE's local partners had started up a micro-loan business with interest rates of around 10 percent, as part of a long-term community project. The PRT came in and set up a short-term loans project with no fee, which brought people flocking to what CARE sees as a less sustainable option.

CARE says it also concerned about the potential for government aid funds to be diverted to military-backed projects. "Aid money should be channelled through civilian organisations and military 'hearts and minds' money should come from defence budgets," said Mollett.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Challenges for Tamil NGOs

An interesting article (toward the bottom) that talks about security issues female humanitarian workers associated with Tamil NGOs in Sri Lanka face. A revealing quote in being "caught between the three devils (Sri Lankan military, LTTE, and the Karuna Faction) and the deep blue sea."

Incident: Expulsion, Uzbekistan

The Uzbek government announced it was shutting down the local office of Counterpart, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Commercial Security in Humanitarian and Post-Conflict Settings: An Exploratory Study

James Cockayne writes in that his paper on commercial security (that we mentioned several months ago) is now online. Highly recommended reading for the NGO security practitioner.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What's In Your Toolbox?

What's in your toolbox? And by that I mean what resources and experience do you call on when you need to make safety and security decisions.

A fair number of people attend a RedR or internal organization training or two, and think the content presented is the be-all, end-all in NGO security. This is far from the case. While these trainings present an excellent foundation and common working platform for dealing with humanitarian-related safety and security issues, to really be a top-notch NGO security practitioner you need to think outside the NGO box. That means reading and learning about safety and security topics from a variety of fields that might not be NGO-specific; content that often isn't covered in standard humanitarian trainings.

Here are a few examples:

ASIS International (a trade organization devoted to the security profession) offers Security Management Weekly, a great email newsletter on corporate security issues. You can sign up for it free, here.

Blackwater (the largest US private military company) has a weekly newsletter devoted to law enforcement, military and paramilitary security issues. If you want to better understand the mindset of PMCs and learn a bit about how they operate, the archive of newsletters is very educational.

From personal experience, computer and information security can often be very weak in field offices (as well as some headquarters). Don't know very much about this subject? Try SecurityFocus.com, a first-rate Web site devoted to information security news and topics.

How about driver training in insecure environments? Tony Scotti is an internationally recognized security-driving instructor. His SecurityDriver.com Web site offers a number of excellent articles on the topic.

Need to do an assessment in a country and are wondering about past natural disasters? Check out EM-DAT, a joint effort between OFDA and CRED to catalog and collect information about natural and human caused disasters throughout the world.

The list goes on and on. My point is there are a large number of resources out there to help you became a more effective, knowledgeable and professional security practitioner - many of them freely and readily accessible on the Internet.

Don't limit yourself to traditional NGO security training and resources. Increase your breadth and depth of knowledge. Think outside the box. Doing so will benefit your organization, its staff and ultimately its beneficiaries.

Incident: Missing Aircraft (fatalities), DRC

A WFP-chartered light plane was reported missing in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. If your office uses chartered aircraft, does your safety and security plan address things like "flight following" (having the pilot periodically radio in a current location), overdue procedures, and safety checks (the aircraft has been recently inspected, the pilot has valid credentials, the aircraft is carrying sufficient emergency and survival gear, etc.)?

5/6/06 Update - Rescuers found the crashed plane and the bodies of all three on board. Condolences to family, friends, and colleagues.

Crisis Watch #33

Crisis Watch #33 is out and can be downloaded here.