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Volume 8
Issue 3 

On page 38 Phil Wood says that the disciplines of crisis and disaster response usually deal with real-time issues of emergency consequence. But, he argues, we should look beyond the effects and scrutinise possible causes: "You might neither know nor care about the problems that are happening outside your immediate world, but this makes no difference. The effects will come... they are real," he says.

On page 4 we report on volunteer health workers being gunned down while administering polio vaccines. Nobody has owned up to these crimes, but fingers have been pointed towards radical religious groups which, in the past, have accused the WHO vaccination programme of being a plot to sterilise or poison children.

Sixty years after a polio vaccine was developed, it is simply grotesque that children are potentially being condemned to a lifechanging and entirely preventable illness through ignorance, cynicism or ideology.

Economic and climate issues can destabilise economies and nations, says Wood, who adds that when human needs are not met, or basic human aspirations are thwarted, instability, uncertainty and potential chaos usually ensue.

But maybe the provision of humanitarian assistance and preventive medical aid are more primal, providing greater forces for stability. And the amplified consequences of their withdrawal could be even more serious than we imagine.

Savage attacks on aid workers have been increasing for several years; their neutrality and altruism both questioned and exploited. Yet, apart from the acute human tragedy, why else does it matter to the wider resilience, security and emergency communities?

It is because such attacks, and others, aim to create greater instability, to subjugate and terrorise already-vulnerable groups, breeding fear and hopelessness, spawning hatred and eventually even making some elements of society thirsty for confrontation. And one day, the effects could come to us. They are real.

This comment was published in 2013 

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