On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2011, the United Nations IRIN News Service/OCHA, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in association with the International Humanitarian City in Dubai (IHC) held a briefing session for the media with special emphasis on the humanitarian situation in Somalia.
World Humanitarian Day is marked on 19 August of every year, and was created by a decision of the United Nations General Assembly to be celebrated yearly all over the World in recognition of the work and sacrifices of Humanitarian aid workers. The date was chosen by the United Nations and the humanitarian agencies to coincide with the tragic Canal Hotel Bombing in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 that targeted the UN humanitarian mission in that country. The day honors those who have been tragically killed, kidnapped or injured in the course of their humanitarian work, as well as raises awareness of what it means to be a humanitarian aid worker. For this reason, this year’s theme is “People Helping People,” to highlight and reaffirm the humanitarian principles that drive the humanitarian community in fulfilling its noble calling and to encourage people to take action.
The world humanitarian day is an opportunity to remember the sacrifices made by humanitarian workers in the front lines who put their life and safety in danger to help others and make this world a better place, said Khaled Khalifa, Head of OCHA/IRIN Middle East and Asia Bureau and Sphere Focal Point in the UAE.
“The core of humanitarian work is being accomplished on the ground, in countries hit by extreme poverty, wars and natural disasters, and such a commemoration Day was established to remind us of the sacrifices made by our colleagues operating on the field.” Said Mohamed Diab, Representative and Country Director, Director of Donor Relations in the Middle East, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
“Operations in Somalia are among the highest risk in the world, with the loss of the lives of 14 of WFP’s relief workers since 2008.” continued Diab.
Brigitte Khair Mountain, Head of UNHCR in the UAE commented: “While the World looks away and forgets crises like the one in the Horn of Africa that the UN has been warning about for years, there are those who never leave, who stay the course, whose mission it is to help those in need of a chance at life, a shot at a livelihood and a semblance of dignity.”
“That is what Humanitarian workers do. They stare misery, hunger, hopelessness and despair in the face and transmit a can do attitude of care, empathy, respect and dedication that gives the victims of humanitarian disasters the all too necessary ingredient to keep living, the all too crucial sense of hope.”
Mountain concluded by dedicating a moment of silence in respect to the humanitarian aid workers who were kidnapped, killed, or endangered on the field and those who continue to risk their lives to help the people who need it the most.