WHEN the medical director of SOS Bosnia, Dr Elaine Laycock,
needed to reach a haemophiliac child in Bosnia during the Balkans
War, Tony Ritchards, an aid worker from London, agreed to drive
her. Shortly afterwards, during a mission to carry food parcels
into Sarajevo, Mr Ritchards's truck crashed, after coming under
fire. He and two other aid workers were killed.
"We met their bodies coming back to Heathrow in a cargo plane,"
Dr Laycock recalled last month. "They were in black plastic body
bags, and there was no ceremony, no music. We felt that there
should be something to commemorate humanitarian aid-workers killed
Plans are now under way to establish the first national memorial
for fallen humanitarian aid workers in the UK. It is due to be
installed in two years' time at Westminster Abbey.
Dr Laycock said that she had been "amazed" at the response to
her suggestion for such a memorial, which is backed by large
charities. "People have said: 'Why didn't somebody think of it
The memorial would be installed in the cloisters, she said,
"because they are open, and they are free. . . Although this is a
great Christian institution, it is a memorial to all faiths and to
no faith, because people of all and none are being killed."
The memorial will not be in place until 2016, but the commitment
to memorialising aid workers began last month, with the laying of a
wreath at the Memorial to Innocent Victims. It was laid by Dr Gil
Loescher, who survived the bombing of the UN headquarters in
Baghdad on 19 August 2003, in which the UN envoy Sergio Vieira de
Mello was killed. The day is marked annually as World Humanitarian
Figures released by the organisation Humanitarian Outcomes last
month suggest that the number of aid workers killed, kidnapped, and
seriously wounded annually has reached the highest ever recorded:
in 2013, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded,
and 134 were kidnapped. This represents a increase of 66 per cent
over the previous year.
In July, humanitarian workers were killed in South Sudan by
armed fighters while they were supporting the mission to reach
malnourished children, the executive director or UNICEF, Anthony
Lake, said last month.
"This is one of the great unseen stories of our times," the
Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey, Canon Andrew Tremlett, said. "When
someone is injured or killed, it appears for a moment in the media
spotlight, then other things come along. The memorial is way of
giving some sense of permanence to the lives that had been