Every August 19, World Humanitarian Day is celebrated 19 to honor humanitarian actions worldwide. It also promotes humanitarian aid work and highlights specific global issues yearly to encourage unity and change.
Moreover, it seeks to prevent potential humanitarian crises and foster empathy and compassion.
Ultimately, this day reminds us of the ongoing need for humanitarian actions and the power of human resilience and unity.
Featured in: August - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of World Humanitarian Day
The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 63/139, establishing August 19 as World Humanitarian Day in December 2008. It has a twofold purpose: to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of humanitarian aid workers and to convey a message of solidarity and assistance to those in crisis.
August 19 is a significant date because it is the anniversary of the bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which occurred in 2003.
This tragic event claimed the lives of 22 workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. He worked for 34 years in some of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas.
The first event happened in 2009 after a year of preparation, and it sparked major happenings in various cities worldwide, including New York, Geneva, London, and Dubai.
Over the years, the celebration has employed different tactics to highlight humanitarian efforts. The theme for World Humanitarian Day 2023 was “No Matter What.” It aims to reaffirm its commitment to the values and humanitarian principles no matter what the circumstances.
The Cause and Its Challenges
Every year, World Humanitarian Day honors relief workers who deliver life-saving assistance during conflict and catastrophes where violations of international humanitarian law run rampant.
They face many perils on the ground, including violence, threats, and kidnappings. According to the Aid Worker Security Database, 461 workers fell victim to major attacks in 20223.
Moreover, the communities served by aid workers face many hardships. According to the UNHCR’s Global Trends report, 108.4 million people worldwide were forced to flee their homes by the end of 2022 due to human conflict or natural disasters2.
These tragedies also affect many aspects of life, including healthcare and education systems, increasing food and disease risks. Those humanitarians who confront these challenges are essential in providing hope in a world that is often in turmoil.
Why World Humanitarian Day Matters
Relief workers entering conflict zones or disaster-stricken regions provide life-saving assistance, such as food, shelter, and medical services, facing countless daily risks. Unfortunately, hundreds of aid workers are lost yearly due to crossfire or health hazards.
The growing global humanitarian crisis heightens the urgency of aid work among the international community.
The United Nations’ latest numbers say that 360 million people need humanitarian aid and protection1, more than a quadruple from a decade ago. This escalation is concerning, as it has occurred in a relatively short period.
However, there is a shortage of workers to meet the ever-increasing needs, compounded by limited funding and access constraints, leading to a faltering delivery pipeline for aid. There is an urgent need for more resources and personnel to ensure hope persists.
Efforts and Initiatives
Many organizations in the humanitarian system address crises with great strength and perseverance. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the leading organization.
OCHA responds quickly and effectively to disasters and human conflict, such as the earthquake in Haiti or the ongoing conflict in Syria. They provide relief to communities in need.
Various organizations contribute significantly to global humanitarian efforts, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
For instance, the ICRC provides essential medical assistance to the people in Afghanistan while creating awareness about the local population's challenges. Similarly, World Vision delivers emergency aid, promotes sustainable development, and advocates for child rights in different parts of the world.
Moreover, the United Nation's #NotATarget campaign called for protecting civilians, aid workers, and infrastructure in conflict zones. On the other hand, their #RealLifeHeroes social media campaign highlighted the efforts of workers who risk their lives to help others.
How to Get Involved and Support World Humanitarian Day
- Learn more about the issues from blogs, documentaries, books, and podcasts. Stay informed and contribute to the conversations that lead to positive change.
- Organizations continually seek volunteers to help make change happen locally and internationally. Whether you prefer hands-on work or data analysis, there will be work for you.
- Share posts, start discussions, and keep the momentum online to make a difference.
- Additionally, you can funnel your extra motivation into fundraising. For instance, you can organize a virtual marathon or host an online art auction.
- Social media platforms even have features to collect funds for your chosen organization.
World Humanitarian Day acknowledges the efforts of individuals working in the humanitarian field to help people affected by disasters and wars. It reminds us of our collective challenges and achievements, providing hope amidst despair.
However, the occasion is also a call to focus on taking action. Even sharing a post, spreading the word, or making a small donation can make a significant difference. Let us direct our resources and time towards amplifying their efforts and supporting the cause.
World Humanitarian Day FAQs
Every August 19, WHD honors humanitarian workers and raises awareness about the need for humanitarian aid. It highlights the invaluable contributions of relief workers and emphasizes the importance of protecting their safety and well-being.
They assist victims of natural disasters, conflicts, and health crises by responding immediately to provide for their basic needs.
You can support the cause by volunteering your time or donating to humanitarian organizations. You can also spread awareness about the importance of humanitarian work in any form.
Humanitarian Outcomes. (2022). Figures at a Glance.