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Humanitarian agencies failing staff

How much responsibility should humanitarian agencies take for their workers? Two recent reports suggest that throughout the industry, organizations are completely failing their staff.

On 23 November 2015 the U.K. Guardian reported stress problems among almost all aid workers. Two days later a Norwegian court found the Norwegian Refugee Council guilty of "gross negligence" in the kidnapping of a staffer in 2012.

The Guardian report by Holly Young came from a survey of 754 members of its Global Development Professional Network. "79% ,,,stated that they had experienced mental health issues. The overwhelming majority, 93%, believe these to have been related to their work in the aid industry."

The figures are much higher than previously recorded, though it did depend on people coming forward for the survey.

The Norwegian case, reported by Imogen Wall for IRIN, arose from the kidnapping of Steve Dennis and three other staff members in Dabaab, Kenya, in 2012,

"The court said NRC was liable for the physical and psychological injuries he received as a result of the incident and awarded compensation of 4.4 million krone ($500,000) plus costs."

This was just over a third of what he demanded but IRIN's report argues the case has "far-reaching implications for security in the aid industry".

"The court noted evidence from others affected by the kidnapping who were highly critical of their subsequent treatment by NRC and claimed they had been characterised as troublemakers for voicing criticism internally," the report notes.

The case has reportedly led organizations in the U.K. to begin reviewing their procedures, particularly support systems after an incident.

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