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Olivier Vandecasteele launches new fund to support humanitarian workers

Olivier Vandecasteele
13:27 14/03/2024

Former Iranian hostage Olivier Vandecasteele has launched a new fund Protect Humanitarians to support aid workers in the field.

The initiative’s ambition is “to provide a collective solution to a shared need, which will benefit members of the entire humanitarian community,” he said.

Vandecasteele was freed last year after spending 455 days in an Iranian cell. He was given a 40-year prison sentence after being arrested while on a visit to the country in 2022. He was eventually released in a prisoner swap between Belgium and Iran.

The initiative aims to advocate for aid workers in need and set up a fund to provide medical, psychological and legal support.  

“This is the ambition of Protect Humanitarians: to provide a collective solution to a shared need, which will benefit members of the entire humanitarian community,” he added.

It will focus on the following activities:

-          Emergency support for aid workers who are victims of critical incidents

-          Raise public awareness of the need to protect aid workers

-          Development and exchange of good practices among experts

-          Provide psychological and legal assistance to humanitarians who are victims of attack

The project is a partnership with Belgium’s leading philanthropy hub, the King Baudouin Foundation, which is providing financial support as well as expertise.

While Vandecasteele’s nightmare experience led to the setting up of the initiative, the plight of humanitarian workers continues to cause concern, especially the lack of legal impunity for perpetrators.

More than 500 aid workers were wounded, killed or kidnapped in 2023, according to the Aid Worker Security Database. Meanwhile, around 300 million people across the world, victims of conflict, forced displacement or natural disasters, will require humanitarian assistance in 2024, says the UN.

The Protect Humanitarians fund is now open for donations to help support humanitarian workers on the ground who are victims of critical incidents while conducting their duties.

Globally humanitarian needs will be under the spotlight at the third edition of the European Humanitarian Forum on 18 & 19 March. It is hosted by Belgium in its current role as president of the European Council, along with the European Commission.

Photo: Olivier Vandecasteele after his release in the town of Tournai in 2023 ©Belga/Justin Namur

Written by The Bulletin