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Security Concerns Make Aid Work Difficult

Security Concerns Make Aid Work Difficult

Aid workers in the Middle East and Europe are facing greater security risks as tension increases in both regions, according to World Vision.

World Vision New Zealand CEO, Helen Green, says World Vision is closely monitoring the situation in the five 'hotspots' of Afghanistan, Jerusalem/Israel, Iraq, and Kosovo.

"Tension is rising in many of the countries where we have programmes in place to help the local people. In March, we have had to temporarily suspend some of our programmes but continue to operate in as many areas as we can," she says.

In Afghanistan, World Vision's office in the provincial capital of Heart was closed for two days last week when fighting between rival government factions broke out and more than 200 soldiers and civilians died.

Calm has now returned to the city but the situation remains tense. World Vision, which has conducted programmes to help feed and house local people in Afghanistan since 2001, is now operating most of its services as normal.

World Vision's Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza offices have also closed temporarily following the assassination of Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin. The offices will open when the security situation allows.

"Our staff are particularly concerned about a Rehabilitation Centre in Rafah, which was partly demolished two months ago. The Centre is often caught in the line of fire," Mrs Green says.

The security situation in Iraq remains volatile, and Mrs Green says the situation there is being continually assessed to make sure aid workers are safe.

In spite of the on-going pockets of conflict, World Vision has delivered running water and constructed latrines in 203 schools for more than 100,000 children, delivered relief items to about 60,000 people and provided medicine and supplies to hospitals in northern and western Iraq.

In Kosovo, over 28 people died and about 500 people were wounded in violent clashes between Albanians and Serbs in over a dozen locations across the country recently.

An injured Serbian youth, believed to have been attacked by an Albanian and the subsequent drowning of two Albanian youths (with one youth still missing), in an attempt to flee from a Serb threat, fuelled pent-up anger from both communities.

A fourth boy, who was also reportedly forced to flee in the Iber River with his three friends, survived the ordeal. The 12-year-old is an active member of the 'Kids for Peace' club; an initiative that is being led by the children of Kosovo and supported by World Vision.

Mrs Green says World Vision is concerned with the current situation in Kosovo which could deteriorate further. World Vision is distributing items to affected families, but has had to temporarily suspend Kids for Peace activities in some villages.

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