The United Nations has long been a source of humanitarian efforts around the world. However, the days when the flag of the UN and its protection was respected by various warring parties seems to have declined. World Humanitarian Day holds special significance for the United Nations family, as they come together to pay tribute to colleagues who have lost their lives in the course of their humanitarian service, while paying tribute to the survivors, and saluting those who work hard to bring relief to humans throughout the world in a variety of situations, either disaster relief or in war-torn areas.
“The UN flag and those of humanitarian aid agencies unfortunately do not provide the same protection to humanitarian staff as they used to. We are all targets today! In 2016, 288 national and international humanitarian workers fell victim to attacks on aid operations, more than 100 died, while many others were injured or kidnapped. This year, already 136 victims of attacks on humanitarian staff have been recorded, with more than 70 dead,” said Michael Meller, United Nations Under-Secretary General Director-General.
He also noted that those who survive these attacks are left with scars for the rest of their lives. The workers go into the most dangerous places around the world to bring aid, including medical assistance to those who have suffered from conflicts and disasters.
Humanitarian efforts have distributed over 4 million non-food items and helped feed some 3 million people across Syria and provided 3 million people with water in Iraq. Humanitarian assistance has also been provided to 4 million people in Yemen. These are just a few of the areas around the world where humanitarians have been key in providing assistance to their fellow humans. At the same time, according to Meller, these figures also represent sacrifices, passion, and persistence of these workers.
“Each year we meet on World Humanitarian Day to note that there are new victims to bemoan, despite our call that this is unacceptable. We will not give up and we will continue to urge all parties to armed conflicts to stop targeting humanitarian workers. We have to join forces to find innovative ways of communicating and acting until we are heard, until appropriate protection is provided to our colleagues in the field. We owe this to the colleagues we have lost and to their families but also to the millions of victims of conflicts who rely on our assistance to cover their basic needs,” said Meller.
This year, the Geneva World Humanitarian Day commemoration is organized in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins sans Frontières and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Additionally, the day will include a panel discussion on “Violence against health care and its implications for affected populations, humanitarian workers and aid”. An award ceremony organized by the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation will follow the discussion, along with a commemoration of those who have lost their lives.