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Aid Workers Face Rising Tide of Emergencies and Hostilities

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I spend my time looking for ditches these days. Fresh out of hostile environment training for aid workers I know where to dive in to save my life if caught in a sudden exchange of fire.

This is just the start. I can Delta Kilo myself over the radio; tourniquet bleeding limbs; know how not to mess with landmines; evacuate within seconds; and have learnt that keeping my mouth shut is probably the best thing if I get abducted.

After dealing with pints of fake blood, silicone wounds and viscera, rounds of mock explosions and being gun-pointed with decommissioned AK-47s in the dark woods of Sussex - I have returned to my organisation Plan International's Headquarters a walking, talking disaster man.

The sounds of loud bangs, shock and awe scenarios, and the paranoia of anticipating the unknown had me and my fellow aid workers on an adrenaline rush which I can still feel in my veins. Hostile environments and conflicts, we all know for a fact, are rapidly reshaping the sphere of humanitarian aid work globally.

From supporting flood survivors in Pakistan to feeding starving population in strife-torn Jonglei state of South Sudan, from providing relief to typhoon affected people in the Philippines to helping Haitians rebuild their lives after 2010 quake - aid workers are reaching out to millions of people, every day. In the farthest corners of the world and among the most remote communities, they are dealing with more conflicts, disasters and emergencies than ever before.

Aid workers are now very much at the frontline of extreme humanitarian challenges facing the world as nations find their capacities and resources stretched to the limits and communities endure tests of survival, sustenance and reconstructing lives.

In the course of their duty, aid workers are increasingly working in environments that are isolated, difficult and hostile. They regularly face the threat of violence, targeted attacks and abductions. Between the years 2000 and 2010, 780 aid workers lost their lives in the line of duty. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2010 alone 242 aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped as opposed to 91 in the year 2000.

With disasters and emergencies becoming a significant component of humanitarian work, aid workers cannot safely operate in environments they are not adequately trained for. They face both environmental and targeted risks to their life and safety.

Imagine walking into a minefield before realising you are in deep trouble and help is hours away. Picture yourself in the middle of a crowd that is fast turning into a mob. Visualise your colleague has been shot at by rebels and has a life-threatening bleeding wound. Think of a scenario where you have lost your way in the forest and the only way to find your camp is using the GPS.

Akin to a battlefront, these situations raise a demand on various physical and mental faculties for quick, and more importantly, right actions. Delays and mistakes can cost lives.

However, the comforting fact is that there are effective ways to deal with each of these situations. Through adequate information and training humanitarian agencies and aid workers can be better prepared for the widening challenges of their role. Survival is at the centre of humanitarian work and frontline aid workers must be trained in all its techniques as they strive to save and support others' lives.

As for me, I feel better prepared to deal with any eventualities during deployment or otherwise. Next time you hear me saying Delta Kilo, Message, Roger so far?, Over - you know what station I am on.

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