|Humanitarian workers are forgotten heroes, heroes without whom there wouldn’t be any humanitarian assistance.|
(GENEVA) August 17, 2010 – The second World Humanitarian Day takes place this year August 19 to honor and celebrate the work of humanitarian workers. The date has been chosen by the United Nations to commemorate the work of humanitarian workers as it marks the day when 22 employees of the UN, including UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed in a bomb attack in 2003 in Baghdad.
This year focus will be on the actual work and achievements of humanitarian workers in the field. This year’s theme is "We are humanitarian workers." It will be as well the occasion to remember and honor those who have lost their lives while helping others. A total of 102 humanitarian workers died in 2009.
Humanitarian workers are forgotten heroes, heroes without whom there wouldn’t be any humanitarian assistance. Not only do they work in the worst places of the world, in extreme temperatures (high frost, extremely hot countries), threatened by diseases but in dangerous places as well where they risk their lives to help the destitute, the victims of wars or natural catastrophes, whatever their race, nationality, religious or political beliefs – with total neutrality.
Man-made and natural disasters cause immense suffering for millions of people every year, very often among the world’s poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. There are currently more than 27 million internally displaced people and 10 million refugees in the world. One out of every six people in the world are chronically hungry. Humanitarian aid workers strive to ensure that all those who have experienced a traumatic event and need life-saving assistance receive it, regardless of where they are in the world, and regardless of their religious or social group or nationality.
The majority of humanitarian aid workers come from the countries in which they work. Strong professional and independent local partners are fully involved in all humanitarian responses. Humanitarian aid workers are national and international, male and female, and reflect all cultures, ideologies and backgrounds. Their motivations for humanitarian work are diverse, but all aid workers are united by their commitment to humanitarianism.
Over many years, humanitarian aid workers have relied on acceptance that they need to be protected by all parties to ensure they can work wherever they are needed. Increasingly, however, a perception is spreading that humanitarian aid is delivered exclusively by Western organizations or agencies, or somehow represents one ideological or religious world view. This is entirely wrong, yet is increasingly virulent in many regions of the world. The worst manifestation of this false perception is the increasing number of targeted attacks on humanitarian personnel, killing and injuring more humanitarian aid workers every year. This situation harms the poorest, most vulnerable people the most.
Humanitarian aid workers should be respected and helped, not targeted. We face a future in which more humanitarian aid will be needed. If humanitarian aid workers do not have full access to those in need, many hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries will not receive the quantity or quality of assistance they require. The best way to ensure humanitarian aid workers can fulfill their mission is by improving awareness of and respect for the principles on which aid work is conducted: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
• 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 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.
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