Take a selfie, join UN’s con­flict in­stal­la­tion

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - UMBERTO BACCHI

LON­DON: Thou­sands of self­ies are to be dis­played on a three-di­men­sional in­stal­la­tion at the UN in New York to high­light the plight of mil­lions caught in con­flict world­wide and de­mand pro­tec­tion for those try­ing to help them, the world body said yes­ter­day.

The UN is ask­ing peo­ple around the world to add their names to a pe­ti­tion call­ing on global lead­ers to pro­tect civil­ians and aid work­ers – not with a pen, but by sub­mit­ting a selfie on­line.

The 3D im­ages will be pro­jected onto a mir­rored glass struc­ture at the UN build­ing in what it is call­ing the first “liv­ing pe­ti­tion”.

“It is un­con­scionable that civil­ians and the aid work­ers who are try­ing to help them are killed and maimed in con­flict zones with ut­ter im­punity,” said Mark Low­cock, head of the Of­fice for the Co-or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (Ocha). “We need this to end.”

In 2017, 139 aid work­ers were killed, more than 100 wounded and 76 kid­napped while do­ing their jobs, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual Aid Worker Se­cu­rity Re­port compiled by in­de­pen­dent re­search group Hu­man­i­tar­ian Out­comes.

The death toll was the sec­ond high­est on record and 23% up on the pre­vi­ous year.

Syria was named the most dan­ger­ous place for hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers for the sec­ond year in a row in 2018 in a sep­a­rate anal­y­sis by char­ity Care In­ter­na­tional, ac­count­ing for more than half of 76 deaths recorded so far this year.

Ex­perts say aid agen­cies need to do more to help work­ers who suf­fer from men­tal health prob­lems such as de­pres­sion, burnout and anx­i­ety af­ter ex­po­sure to trau­matic events.

“In all my time in the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in­dus­try I’ve learnt things like… how to change the wheel of an ar­moured ve­hi­cle… but never how to recognise de­pres­sion,” Michael Bo­ci­urkiw, a for­mer aid worker, said.

Only 20% of hu­man­i­tar­i­ans who re­sponded to a 2018 sur­vey said they felt ad­e­quate psy­choso­cial sup­port was be­ing of­fered, ac­cord­ing to the Over­seas Devel­op­ment In­sti­tute (ODI), a British think-tank.

“If you’re not okay your­self… then how can you ex­pect to be help­ing oth­ers,” said Jaz O’Hara, founder of The World­wide Tribe, a grass-roots group help­ing refugees, at the ODI con­fer­ence.

The UN in­stal­la­tion is part of the #NotATar­get cam­paign mark­ing World Hu­man­i­tar­ian Day to­mor­row, and will re­main in place through­out the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Septem­ber, when the world’s heads of state gather in New York.

“The thou­sands of faces that make up the liv­ing pe­ti­tion will be on dis­play to re­mind world lead­ers of their le­gal obli­ga­tion to pro­tect civil­ians in con­flict,” said Low­cock.

Al­most 32 000 civil­ians were killed or in­jured by ex­plo­sive weapons last year, a 38% in­crease on 2016, Ocha said.

“It is im­per­a­tive we hold men with guns and power ac­count­able,” said Low­cock. – Reuters

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