Natalia Project Bracelet to Save LivesOn July 15, 2009, Natalia Estemirova was abducted in Chechnya while on the job defending human rights. Later that evening, she was found shot to death.

Humanitarian aid workers are regarded as selfless and live their lives implementing life-saving projects around the world. No matter the public view of these people, the work is full of dangers and, in certain countries, can even be deadly. In war-torn countries, on-the-field humanitarian aid workers have fallen victim to assault, kidnapping, and murder. After the senseless death of Natalia, one Swedish activist group, Civil Rights Defenders, hopes to take preemptive action that will protect the lives of humanitarians across the globe.

In April, Civil Rights Defenders introduced the Natalia Project bracelet, a technological innovation designed to alert authorities when an aid worker is in danger. The bracelet is chunky, plastic, and brightly colored. It is equipped with a GPS-tracking device and cell-enabled alarms that allow the wearer to send out distress signals. The bracelet’s lock will even send out an automatic distress signal if it is tampered with or forcibly removed. While the technology remains a bit spotty at this time, a downed infrastructure could undermine the GPS signals, the Civil Rights Defenders hope to outfit at least 55  aid workers by 2014. On the Natalia Project’s website, supports can give monetary donations as well as sign up for notifications that detail the time and location of a wearer that has activated the distress signal. Supports that sign up for the project and notifications will be updated on the situation as it unfolds and have the opportunity to spread the word.

While the innovation is still in the beginning stages of use, it is sure to be a device that will protect, if not save, the lives of civil rights defenders across the globe.

Kira Maixner
Source Huffington Post, Civil Rights Defenders
Photo Crunch Wear

10 Facts: The Lives of Aid Workers
Many people do not understand what it truly means to be a humanitarian aid worker. There are millions of people worldwide that dedicate their lives to improving the living conditions of people living in poverty in developing countries, refugee camps, or war zones. In countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the risk of violence and sickness is great. However, aid workers in other countries face just as many health risks and sleepless nights.

While the health risks are great, the benefits for these workers and the people they help are just as great. Making friends from all over the world, lifting people out of poverty, and sleeping on the beach can be some of the perks of the job. Here are ten facts about the lives of aid workers according to the Aid Worker Fact Sheet procured by Humanitarian Outcomes, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALAP) and a few workers themselves.

  1. In 2011, 308 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or wounded – the highest number yet recorded. Afghanistan was the country with the highest number of attacks on aid works, 50, compared to 18 in Somalia, 17 in South Sudan, 13 in Pakistan and 12 in Sudan.
  2. Statistics suggest that attacks on aid workers happen in weak, unstable states and experiencing active armed conflict.
  3. Governments can pose challenges to the aid community through overbearing or ill-advised use of their security forces. In its worst form, aid workers can be caught or directly targeted in government forces’ hostilities.
  4. The conditions of aid works vary greatly from country to country. Sometimes, reliable access to amenities of the western world like electricity, hot and cold running water, reliable heat and cooling, and the freedom of movement to explore at your leisure.
  5. At times, the mental capacity of the job presents a challenge. Constant movement and the witness of horrendous living conditions frequently cause humanitarian workers to “burn out” after a few years in the field.

However, it is not all bad. Here are five facts that surpass the risks of working in developing or war-torn countries.

  1. Aid workers live a life of service that aligns with their values and are surrounded by colleagues that share the same passion and commitments. Though aid workers are on the constant move, they make connections and lasting friendships with people across the globe.
  2. Challenge and responsibility come earlier in the career of a relief worker than in many other careers.
  3. Relief workers have the opportunities to make a lasting, true impact on the lives of many of the people they encounter.
  4. Relief work allows humanitarians to escape the beaten, tourist track and truly experience different cultures and countries.
  5. According to ALNAP, there are 274,238 humanitarian field workers across the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Humanitarian Outcomes, Humanitarian Jobs
Photo: European Commission