There are many ways to help make a difference, from donating to important causes to raising awareness to pressuring elected officials. Each is a critical function and should be lauded.

A few courageous individuals choose to go out in the field and put their lives on the line. They deserve our utmost respect:

Soaring violence in Somalia and Afghanistan helped make 2008 the most dangerous year on record for aid workers, with 122 killed while carrying out their work, a report showed on Monday.

Aid work is now more risky than U.N. peacekeeping as attacks become increasingly politically motivated in some countries, researchers said.

Last year marked a surge in violence against international relief workers and local U.N. contractors such as the truck drivers who deliver food aid in Sudan‘s war-torn Darfur region.

There has also been a dramatic increase in kidnappings over the past three years. The latest in Sudan took place on Saturday when unknown armed men snatched two female aid workers, a French and a Canadian, from their compound in southern Darfur.

Altogether, 260 humanitarian workers were attacked in 155 serious incidents in 2008 — compared with 27 incidents in 1998, according to figures compiled by the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) in New York and the Overseas Development Institute in London.

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