It was World Humanitarian Day on August 19. It has become a day to commemorate aid workers killed overseas while devoting, and risking, their lives to assist people in need. Social media feeds were buzzing, and monuments planned. These are all good things, because violence against aid workers is on the rise, and where aid workers were once protected, they are now targets.
The day after World Humanitarian Day in the Central African Republic a Red Cross volunteer was killed in the capital, Bangui, while evacuating casualties during gunfight between peacekeepers and local armed men, according to reports.
When the everyday Westerner thinks of an aid worker, I’m pretty sure they think of Western expats working overseas to assist people in war-torn countries in desperate need of their assistance and expertise. That’s true, but only partly. People living through war and disaster overseas are desperate, and they need and deserve international assistance to cope, but not all aid workers are expats.
It’s likely the volunteer, Bienvenu Bandios, was Central African. He would have to be a local to volunteer with the Central African Red Cross Society. He had been with the Red Cross for five years, as a driver and first aid worker–he was not a Western-university educated Expert Aid Worker. And I’ll bet he was desperate, but in a different kind of way. He was desperately trying to save people in the middle of a war in his capital city.
Many aid worker monuments are built because a Western expat aid worker has been killed, but we need to remember they are not the only ones risking their lives.
Every day locals work harder than anyone to save their neighbours, and sometimes their enemies, from war, famine, disaster. They do not have the luxury of evacuation like expats do. They are the majority of aid workers, and we owe it to them to remember that, and to commemorate their grit and determination.