The challenges facing humanitarian agencies and workers

More than 250 representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have gathered in Beijing this week for their 9th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference to discuss new and innovative approaches toward meeting today’s humanitarian challenges.

Every day, the 47 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific are tackling human suffering in various forms. While we live in an era of incredible technological advances and major achievements in combating disease, we also live in a time of great uncertainty where conventional drivers of humanitarian crises such as natural disasters and conflicts are increasingly interacting with new forms of hazards.

About 89 percent of people affected by natural disasters worldwide are living in the Asia Pacific region. We are seeing changing patterns in disasters, where climate change is driving extreme weather events that are putting greater numbers of people at risk.

The escalation of protracted crises in the Middle East has had grave humanitarian consequences. More than 4 million people in the region have fled their countries of origin due to conflicts. In Iraq, recent waves of violence are creating a serious refugee crisis. In Syria, millions continue to rely upon the aid from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The security of our staff and volunteers is increasingly at risk – across the region we (IFRC) have lost almost 50 colleagues in the line of duty. It is unacceptable that so many people have lost their lives while trying to save the lives of others.

[Excerpts of China Daily op-ed written by secretary general of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies]

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