Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Aid Worker Security Report 2011: Spotlight on security for national aid workers

Humanitarian Outcomes recently released its 2011 report on the state of aid worker security (the last report came out in 2009). I'll shamelessly quote verbatim their key findings below to entice you into reading the details in the full 28-page PDF document. Kudos to Abby, Adele, and all involved for the excellent research and analysis. Your work is valued and appreciated.

2011 Key Findings
  • The past two years show a downturn in violence against aid workers that spiked in a small number of conflict contexts beginning in 2006 and peaking in 2008.
  • The recent decline in attacks is mainly due to the shrinking presence of international aid agencies in the most violent settings, Somalia in particular, rather than improving security conditions.
  • The incidence of aid worker kidnappings continues to rise dramatically, and the use of major explosives has emerged as a tactic of violence in a small number of settings.
  • Despite overall improvements in aid agencies’ security risk management, national aid workers perceive continued inequities in security support compared with their international counterparts.
  • National aid workers, while less subject to major attacks per capita than international aid workers, nevertheless form the majority of victims, and their specific security needs require more attention.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Somalia Report

If your organization is doing or considering doing work in Somalia (or if you just want to stay up to speed on events) I highly recommend you check out Somalia Report. Founded by war correspondent/journalist Robert Young Pelton (author of "The World's Most Dangerous Places"), this no-holds-barred news site cuts through mainstream media fluff and provides good on-the-ground commentary and analysis. The site's been running for a bit over six months now and has provided a continuous stream of top-flight information that's relevant to humanitarian security practitioners in the Horn of Africa region. Somalia Report is currently free and makes for a good online reference paired with Suna Times (probably the best Somali produced English news Web site).


Monday, August 01, 2011

Possible sat phone alternative

DeLorme is a U.S. firm that got its start making paper maps, then got into digital maps and software, and now makes handheld GPS receivers in addition to maps. I've used their products over the years and they're pretty good with excellent customer support. The company recently announced a new product that may provide an affordable alternative to sat phones for field use. inReach is a small device that serves as an interface between an Android operating system cellular phone and the Iridium satellite network. It provides two-way, text-based communication through the mobile phone (an iPhone compatible version is supposed to be in the works). In addition the gadget also has GPS navigation and mapping functionality.

Pricing is supposed to be around $250 US for the device, with monthly plans starting at $9.95. This is considerably cheaper than an Iridium sat phone (around $1,000) and $30 to $40 monthly fees, plus airtime. Scheduled availability is sometime in the fall of 2011. There's more information about inReach, including photos, here.

Technology always looks good on paper before it's released and it's best to wait a bit and pay attention to the early reviews before purchasing a significant number of new electronic devices.

As a note, one downside to Iridium is coverage is blocked in certain parts of the world due to U.S. regulations (currently that includes Taliban controlled Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan). I suspect Thuraya, which has more of a foothold within the humanitarian community (and so far has offered more rugged handsets) will also get into this market and other similar, competitive devices will emerge. Speaking of Thuraya, the British TV show Gadget did an un-scientific comparison of Iridium and Thuraya handsets last year. Check it out on YouTube.