Providing humanitarian assistance in conflict situations has always been a dangerous and difficult undertaking. In the last decade, casualties among humanitarian workers have tripled, averaging 100 deaths per year. In areas where violence has surged in recent years, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, humanitarian assistance has been sharply curtailed.

In response to these concerns, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) set out to identify and document strategies and practices that have enabled humanitarian organizations to maintain effective operations in situations that pose high security risks for their workers.

In 2010 an independent research team conducted six field studies in complex security environments, conducted interviews with 255 humanitarian practitioners and policymakers, surveyed over 1,100 national staff members, and carried out a review of literature on the topic.

The results of this research have been synthesized in the report To stay and deliver: good practice for humanitarians in complex security environments. It offers guidelines on how to protect and further humanitarian actions in the most difficult situations so that aid can reach victims of armed conflict and natural disasters.

Much of the report is practical and gives examples of what is working in terms of delivering humanitarian aid in complex emergencies and what lessons can be learned from organizations facing these situations. The practical examples provided can be useful for humanitarian workers.

The study examines political constraints to humanitarian action in complex security environments, factors over which humanitarian actors have less control. It offers an analysis of the challenges of delivering humanitarian assistance and recommends areas for improvement. The report provides details of what can be done to break the vicious circle of attacks and blockades on humanitarian workers.

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