About the data
The AWSD is a global compilation of reports on major security incidents involving deliberate acts of violence affecting aid workers. For a detailed description of the AWSD methodology and coding categories, see our Codebook.
Incident data is collected both from public sources, through systematic media filtering using a data scraper tool developed for Humanitarian Outcomes, and from information provided directly to the project by aid organisations and operational security entities. The project also maintains agreements with a number of regional and field-level security consortiums for direct information sharing and verification of incidents.
Incident reports are crosschecked and verified with the relevant agencies on an annual basis via our verification project. The latest, unverified incidents are provided on the online database with the qualification that the numbers are provisional and may change.
Parameters and definition
"Major incidents" are defined as killings, kidnappings, and attacks that result in serious injury.
"Aid workers" are defined as the employees and associated personnel of not-for-profit aid agencies (both national and international) that provide material and technical assistance in humanitarian relief contexts. This includes both emergency relief and multi-mandated (relief and development) organizations: NGOs, the International Movement of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, donor agencies and the UN agencies belonging to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN-Habitat, WFP and WHO) plus IOM and UNRWA. The aid worker definition includes various locally contracted staff (e.g., drivers, security guards, etc.), and does not include UN peacekeeping personnel, human rights workers, election monitors or purely political, religious, or advocacy organizations.
High insecurity for aid workers can significantly reduce access to a needy population and limit both the amount and quality of aid provided. To better understand and measure this serious implication of aid worker attacks, the research team is therefore increasing documentation of the impacts this insecurity, such as suspensions of programmes and withdrawals.
For each incident, the database records the:
- Country and specific location, including geocodes
- Number of aid workers affected (victims)
- Sex of victims
- Institutional affiliation of victims (UN/Red Cross/NGO/other)
- Type of staff (national or international)*
- Outcome of the incident (victims killed/wounded/kidnapped)
- Means of violence (e.g. shooting, IED, aerial bombardment)
- Context of attack (ambush, armed incursion, etc.)
- Summary of incident (public details)
* Note: there are a small number of reports in which the information is unclear whether the victim was a national or international staffer. In these cases they have been entered as national staffers, pending verification, given this greater likelihood.
|Means of Attack
|Aerial bombardment: (plane, helicopter or drone borne: missile/cluster bomb/barrel bomb/rocket)
|Ambush: (attack on road)
|Office/compound: (organization compound/residence)
|Shelling: (artillery shelling/mortar/RPG)
|Combat/Crossfire: (or police operations)
|Home: (private home, not compound)
|Other Explosives: (stationary bomb/IED, lobbed grenade)
|Individual attack: (or assassination)
|Custody: (official forces/police)
|Bodily assault: (beating/stabbing with non-fire weapons or no weapons)
|Raid: (armed incursion by group on home, office, or project site)
|Public location: (street, market, restaurant, etc.)
|Mob violence: (rioting)
|Road: (in transit)
|Complex attack (explosives in conjunction with small arms)
|Detention (by official government forces or police, where abuse takes place)
|Project site: (village, camp, distribution point, hospital, etc.)
|Vehicle-born IED (remote control or suicide)
|Kidnapping (not killed or whereabouts unknown)
|Rape or serious sexual assault
|Landmine (or UXO detonation)
|Shooting (small arms / light weapons, e.g. pistols, rifles, machine guns)
For more information and a full breakdown of parameters and categorization methods, please access the AWSD Codebook here.
Confidentiality and anonymity
The database does not include the names of individual victims or the agencies affected by an incident. This is done in consideration of the victims and their families who may not wish to have the names publicised in this format, and to afford equal respect to the many victims for whom this information is not available. The institutional affiliations are listed within broad categories (UN/Red Cross/NGO/other) to encourage open sharing of what is considered sensitive information from an organisational perspective.
Requests for specific incident information for a particular agency can be made directly to the research team, but only by representatives of that agency.
Spatial data information
Humanitarian Outcomes would like to thank Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) for undertaking a major effort in providing much of the geospatial information of aid worker incidents going back to 1997. Their efforts captured geocodes for over 1,000 incidents. Geocodes were attributed to locations by using OpenCage, Nominatim, Open Street Map, and GeoNames, which were used under Open Database and Creative Commons licenses.
Best efforts are always made to provide precise coordinate locations. However, occasionally, precise location information is unavailable. In those incidents, where only the general area location are known, the geocodes were placed at the closest center-point to the location. In instances where multiple events occurred in the same location, there may be some offset so that incidents could be better visualized once imported onto a map.
AWSD data is intended for research purposes and non-commercial use only. It is provided free of charge and in the spirit of open data. For information on our API contact firstname.lastname@example.org.