IN 1959 there were 10 active conflicts around the world; in 1995
there are close to 50. When violence flashes, communities dissolve
as people attempt to move out of harm's way. In 1960, there were
1.4 million refugees in the world; today there are almost 20
million, and another 20 to 25 million persons are internally
displaced within their own countries.
Unfortunately, in 1995 we in "humanitarian affairs" are in a
While both the size and frequency of emergency operations have
increased, numbers alone do not explain the deteriorating
environment in which humanitarian assistance operations are
conducted today - "in the rockets' red glare." Both the recipients
and providers of assistance are affected.
In the midst of conflict, military and humanitarian logistics
often must operate in close proximity, at the sea and airports and
along roads. Mass population movements occur spontaneously. Already
inadequate communications and infrastructure are destroyed; and
authority of any kind, governmental or otherwise, is often weakened
or it dissolves.
Not surprisingly, a steady increase in both civilian and
military (peacekeeper) United Nations casualties was reported from
1992 to 1994. In 1993, the place of maximum danger was Somalia. A
total of 136 peacekeepers died during the UN military mission
there. In 1994, 65 UN civilians were killed worldwide, most of them
in relief operations in Rwanda.
Nongovernmental organizations, which deliver the bulk of the
assistance in the field, and Red Cross organizations, are no less
vulnerable than UN staff. Since 1985 the International Committee of
the Red Cross has had nine expatriates and 39 local employees
killed. Another 147 ICRC staff, local and expatriate, have
Insecure, dangerous conditions cause direct and indirect
monetary losses, as well as loss of life. From the outset of a
conflict emergency operation, there may be outlays for war-risk
insurance, body armor, armored vehicles for convoys, extra
communications equipment, and the like. The mix of transport
brought in for the operation must include planes or helicopters for
evacuation. Training field staff in security procedures and
security-related skills is important - and expensive.
Once relief operations begin, delays caused by security
concerns, or even temporary shutdowns following an "incident," are
frequent. If evacuations are necessary, they add to the costs, as
do special transport arrangements to avoid ground fire at aircraft
or mined roads.
The World Food Program, for example, normally factors in a cost
to donors of $30 to $80 per metric ton of food for internal
transport, storage, and handling in most development projects. In
conflict zones, however, these shipments must be made by circuitous
land routes, by airlift, or both. In southern Sudan, this means
total internal transport costs of $500 to $1,000 per metric ton; in
Angola, $315 per metric ton.
Perhaps the monetary costs of conflict can best be seen in the
depressing arithmetic of land-mine clearance. These mines can be
produced for as little as $3, but it costs between $300 and $1,000
each to have them located, disarmed, and cleared. Last year, the
international community allocated approximately $70 million to
clear some 100,000 landmines. During the same period, however, more
than 2 million landmines were deployed.
In the conflicts of the post-cold-war era, which have tended to
be bitter internal conflicts generated by ethnic, religious, and
other intractable differences, the population bases of opposing
armies - civilians - have often become primary targets for attack.
In former Yugoslavia, for example, we have seen "pattern rapes"
of women and girls, children forcibly recruited into combat,
concerted shelling of hospitals, clinics, and markets, and
calculated disruption of relief supply lines. When terrorism
becomes an instrument of war, among the first casualties are
humanitarian principles and norms. …