This August 19 marks the 11th celebration of World Humanitarian Day. This internationally designated day commemorates “humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work, and we honor all aid and health workers who continue, despite the odds, to provide life-saving support and protection to people most in need.”
This day was designated in memory of the August 19, 2003, bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 people, including the chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formalized the day as World Humanitarian Day.
A national of Brazil, Sérgio Vieira de Mello dedicated a lifetime spanning over thirty years in the United Nations, serving in some of the most challenging humanitarian situations in the world to reach the voiceless victims of armed conflict, alleviate their suffering and draw attention to their plight.
His death and those of his 21 colleagues deprived the victims of armed conflict worldwide of a unique humanitarian leader of unmatched courage, drive and empathy who championed their cause fearlessly and etched their plight on the world map. The tragic event also robbed the humanitarian community of an outstanding leader and intellectual whose thinking, philosophy, dynamism and courage inspired all and remains a timeless legacy for coming generations to emulate.
This year, the United Nations is paying special tribute to the real-life heroes who have committed their lives to helping others in the most extreme circumstances throughout the world via a global campaign that celebrates humanitarians – a “thank you” to the people who have committed their lives to helping others: #RealLifeHeroes.
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, there is no doubt that 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 societies and local NGOs being the frontlines of the response.
#RealLifeHeroes 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, delivering babies, fighting locusts and running refugee camps, all amid the pandemic.
Here are a few facts and figures to show the challenges many humanitarian workers face around the globe:
- In 2019, 483 aid workers were attacked: 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in a total of 277 separate incidents.
- Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Central African Republic (CAR), Yemen and Mali.
- WHO reported 1,009 attacks against healthcare workers and facilities, resulting 199 deaths and 628 injuries.
- 90% of all attacks worldwide were on national staff.
Have any #RealLifeHeroes in your life? ISI would love to hear their stories. Visit our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and comment on this post to share and celebrate their amazing contributions. Be sure to use the hashtag #RealLifeHeroes!
Written by Lynda Walz, Sales Executive