For World Humanitarian Day on Tuesday in New York City and Washington D.C., respectively, representatives from the United Nations and the White House released messages in praise of humanitarian workers all across the globe risking and sometimes losing their own lives while working to help alleviate pain and suffering in regions where safety is too often lacking.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the recent worker deaths in South Sudan and Gaza and he stated, “On World Humanitarian Day, we renew our commitment to life-saving relief efforts and we remember all those who died serving this noble cause. Last year, more humanitarian workers were kidnapped, seriously injured or killed than ever before. This is an outrage.
“Let us honor the fallen by protecting those who carry on their work and supporting humanitarian relief operations worldwide,” Ban concluded.
World Humanitarian Day is celebrated on August 19, the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003. Twenty-two humanitarian workers died in that attack, and many more die each year in their mission to help those in need around the world. Often the greatest need is located in areas of extreme violence or other danger.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake remarked, “The nature of humanitarian work is often dangerous. Aid workers endure harsh conditions and risk harm to save lives, rebuild communities, and bear witness in conflicts, catastrophes, and crises. These emergencies have increased in both frequency and complexity. So, too, has the risk to humanitarian workers; and the death toll among them has risen accordingly.”
Lake also commended the work by health care workers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea who are presently risking their lives to attend to the victims of the deadly Ebola virus.
In a statement released by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz the White House honored the ultimate sacrifice made by so many humanitarian workers over the years in their efforts to bring relief in the form of food, water, shelter and medical care to millions of suffering individuals around the world.
The White House concluded its press release by remarking,
“Even as they do their utmost to help the most vulnerable, all too often humanitarians are harassed, kidnapped, or killed for their commitment. There were 251 incidents of major violence against aid workers in 30 countries in 2013. These attacks resulted in 460 aid workers killed, kidnapped, or seriously wounded; many of them heroic local staff working to help neighbors in need. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States expresses its deepest respect to these individuals dedicated to serving others. On behalf of the American people, we are proud to support their work and humbled by their sacrifice. The world needs more of their dedication, selflessness, and courage."