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A new technology to help kidnapped aid workers



















(Photo courtesy of Civl Rights Defenders)


At least every few years, the aid world seems to be jolted with the news of an attack on humanitarian workers.

Last year, four aid workers with the organization Medair were kidnapped in Afghanistan. A year earlier, two aid workers with Doctors Without Borders were shot to death in Somalia by a former colleague.

Five years earlier, in 2006, the Sri Lankan government was accused by Swedish-led monitors of conspiring to kill 17 employees of the aid agency Action Against Hunger.

A Swedish organization called Civil Rights Defenders has a new gadget it says may help aid workers who come under fire.

The agency is distributing a bracelet equipped with a GPS system. When someone activates it, or if the bracelet is pulled off forcefully, the GPS tracker is activated and will send information about its location.

The bracelet also posts messages to Twitter and Facebook. The agency says that will make some governments think twice about conspiring to kidnap aid workers.

Inspired by the case of Natalia Estemirova, who was kidnapped and killed while documenting human rights abuses in Chechnya in 2009, the group said it would give out 55 bracelets over the next 18 months.

The group has a link for interested aid workers to sign up for alerts from the bracelets.

RELATED: Natalia Estemirova, 50: Chechnya's last rights crusader

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead


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