The 19th of August is World Humanitarian Day, a project coordinated by the United Nations to celebrate and recognise the vital and difficult work of humanitarian workers everywhere. World Humanitarian Day commemorates the events of the 19th of August 2003, when 22 people were killed after the United Nations office in Iraq was bombed.1 Countless humanitarian workers have lost their lives carrying out their perilous, altruistic work before and since this date, but the UN sees this event in Iraq as a catalyst for deeper global reflection about the sacrifices and success of thousands of humanitarians around the world. On the 19th of August, take a little time to learn a little bit more about the conditions under which humanitarians carry out their work (see below for some statistics). Simply spread some of this information through your social networks, including on Facebook and Twitter, or take this opportunity to seek out humanitarian projects in your local area and participate in other public events in your home town or city.
Check out this film project featuring aid workers from across the globe. For more information on Word Humanitarian Day, read on.
Humanitarians work in dangerous, conflict-afflicted areas. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs says: ‘By definition, the people who are working trying to tackle humanitarian need are working in places which are often remote, usually difficult, and very often dangerous as well, because that’s where the conflicts are and that’s where the natural disasters happen‘ (OCHA 2010b: 1). Ocha reports on data from the Aid Worker Security Database, which finds that:
- 278 humanitarians were victims of 139 serious security incidents in 2009, compared with 1999 when 65 humanitarians were involved in 34 such incidents. In 2009, 205 of these victims were national staff members of humanitarian organizations, while 73 were international. In 1999, 40 victims were national staff and 25 were internationals.
- 102 humanitarian workers were killed in 2009 (88 national staff and 14 international staff), compared with 1999 when 30 humanitarians were killed (24 nationals and 6 internationals).
- 92 humanitarian workers were kidnapped in 2009 (59 national staff and 33 international staff), compared with 1999 when 20 humanitarians were kidnapped (2 nationals and 18 internationals).
- 139 victims of security incidents occurred in 2009, compared with 34 in 1999. Kidnappings, the most common incident, increased from 9 to 37 over this period. Attacks and assassinations rose from 7 to 32. Bombing incidents increased from 3 to 23. Ambush/road attacks increased from 8 to 20 (OCHA 2010b: 1-2).
1. Ocha (2010a).
OCHA (2010a) ‘World Humanitarian Day: Leaflet’, online resource last accessed 7 August 2010: http://ochaonline.un.org/whd/docs/Leaflet/whd_2010_InfoFlyer_en.pdf
OCHA (2010b) ‘World Humanitarian Day: Security Trends’, online resource last accessed 7 August 2010: http://ochaonline.un.org/whd/docs/SecuritySheet/whd_2010_security_sheet_en.pdf
For more information on World Humanitarian Day, check out the OCHA World Humanitarian Day website.
For more information on the Aid Worker Security Database: A Project of Humanitarian Outcomes, click here.