World Humanitarian Day is being observed on Wednesday to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service and express support for people affected by crises around the world.
The world commemorates humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work and aid and health workers who continue to provide life-saving support and protection to people most in need.
This year World Humanitarian Day comes as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic over recent months. According to the United Nations, aid workers are overcoming unprecedented access hurdles to assist people in humanitarian crises in 54 countries.
This day was designated in memory of the 19th August 2003 bomb attack in Baghdad killing 22 people, including the chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. In 2009, the UN General Assembly formalised the day as World Humanitarian Day.
In his message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres honoured the work of humanitarians who overcome huge challenges to save and improve the lives of millions of people.
“These real-life heroes are doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises. This year humanitarian workers are stretched like never before.”
“They are responding to the global crisis of COVID-19, and with it the massive increase in humanitarian needs from the fallout of the pandemic. The loss of jobs, education, food, water and safety is pushing millions more to the brink,” he said.
The UN said the day is a global campaign that celebrates humanitarians who have committed their lives to help others in the most extreme circumstances throughout the world. The campaign focuses on what drives humanitarians to continue to save and protect lives despite conflict, insecurity, lack of access and risks linked to COVID-19.
This year, COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations around the world. The lack of access and restrictions placed by governments around the world has resulted in communities, civil society and local NGOs being the frontline of the response.
Therefore, the campaign presents the inspiring personal stories of humanitarians who are treating and preventing COVID-19, providing food to vulnerable people in need, providing safe spaces for women and girls in lockdown, fighting locusts and running refugee camps, all amid the pandemic.