When I moved to South Sudan, the world’s newest country, it didn’t help me to know that there were 25 aid worker victims of serious violence in 2012. I wanted to know what the risk/rate of violence was (ideally by location). I wanted to know the rate of malaria amongst aid workers and I really wanted to know the fatality rate of malaria amongst aid workers. Because I enjoy going up hills and black mambas are pretty scary stuff, I was also interested in finding out the risk of getting bitten by one…
There are 17,000 aid workers in South Sudan, making it one of the largest aid operations in the world. In 2012 there were 25 major attacks on aid workers, which puts the rate of major attacks on aid workers in South Sudan at 147 per 100,000 (that is a risk of 0.1% per year). This includes aid workers which were killed, wounded or kidnapped. The breakdown by type of attack is shown in the chart. .
With 9 murders of aid workers, that puts the aid worker murder rate in South Sudan at 53 per 100,000. How does this compare to the murder rates of other places?
The murder rate of aid workers in South Sudan is 44 times higher than that of London. Or about the same as that of Detroit.
While violence is a great concern for aid workers, diseases and accidents account for a much larger proportion of events which lead to medical evacuation, hospitalization or death. For expatriate aid workers, violence is responsible for only 9% of deaths, medical evacuations and hospitalizations. Accidents account for 13% of cases, whereas illnesses are responsible for 78% of all cases.
From the studies discussed in the previous blog, one can guesstimate around 10% of aid workers in South Sudan will contract malaria. While I don’t have data on other diseases, it would be reasonable to assume they would add up to a considerable risk. Over a third of aid workers in South Sudan will suffer deteriorating health. I don’t have a figure for the risk of aid workers to traffic accidents in South Sudan, but this will be high, somewhere between the risk of a major attack and the risk of contracting malaria. 40% of aid workers will find their deployment more stressful than they expect. 10% will suffer from anxiety and 20% from depression. Once deployments are finished, there will be a risk of longer term effects, both physical and mental, but there is little data to quantify this risk.
Finally, I have no idea of my risk of dying to a black mamba. And while I try to accept that in a long enough time scale my survival probability will drop to zero, I very much hope a black mamba isn’t involved. In fact, as Woody Allen put it, ‘I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.’
Sources & further reading:
Here is the statement from Toby Lanzer, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator, where he mentions the number of aid workers in South Sudan.
Data on events which lead to medical evacuation, hospitalization or death come from this study by Rowley et Al. Recommended if you are looking for academic works which analyse rates.
Data on numbers of aid workers killed or seriously injured comes from Humanitarian Outcomes (2013), Aid Worker Security Database, https://aidworkersecurity.org/. Note the 2012 data has not yet been verified.