On August 19, the international community marks World Humanitarian Day. Since 2008, this day has been set aside to remember those who provide humanitarian assistance to others, often at great personal cost. The day was designated by the United Nations to mark the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 NGO and UN humanitarian staff.
Each day countless individuals around the world provide assistance in very challenging circumstances and, increasingly, at risk to their own safety. On this World Humanitarian Day, the Women’s Refugee Commission pays tribute to all those individuals across the globe who have dedicated themselves to protecting and serving the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, in some places, they are not even able to access those who need their help the most. We join in the call to all parties engaged in conflict to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and to allow full and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.
Right now, humanitarian workers are responding to numerous crises, including the Syrian conflict and the disaster in the Sahel region of Africa, where millions are at risk of dying from a combination of conflict and drought. The humanitarian community also struggles to meet needs in protracted situations in the Horn of Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq, to name a few. In each of these crises, large numbers of women and children are displaced. The risks to their safety and well-being are particularly high, and they require specific, targeted assistance to protect and allow them to come up with solutions and rebuild their lives. To help humanitarian workers address these needs, the Women’s Refugee Commission has developed tools related to safe, dignified and effective livelihoods, access to quality reproductive health care, and the safe provision of fuel for cooking.
For World Humanitarian Day 2012, the United Nations recently launched a campaign “I Was Here” to raise awareness of the lifesaving work done by humanitarian staff on the ground and to encourage people to commemorate the day by doing something good for someone else. The campaign aims to reach one billion people by August 19. To lend your support to this global campaign and be part of the one billion marking World Humanitarian Day, please visit: www.whd-iwashere.org.