17 August 2012

Africa: WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin Commemorates World Humanitarian Day and Remembers Fallen Heroes


Every day, humanitarian workers around the world assist millions of people, regardless of who they are and where they are located. Many of us and our co-workers work in the toughest places - remote, inaccessible, stricken by disaster or conflict - taking risks, even at their own personal peril, to serve those less fortunate.

At the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), humanitarians come in many forms: food technologists who champion new nutrient-packed foods to combat the debilitating effects of malnutrition; truck drivers who navigate mountain passes ensuring that life-saving food reaches those in need; or programme officers who find the best methods to deliver food assistance to communities recovering from natural disasters.

I was reminded personally of the courage of humanitarian workers when I visited Saad Yousif in Sudan this week. Saad, who works as a WFP programme assistant, was recovering in hospital from gunshot wounds following an attack on 4 August by armed men in South Kordofan --an attack in which WFP driver Jamal Al Fadil Farag Allah died. Jamal, who joined WFP in 2005, leaves behind a wife and five children. Thankfully, Saad has since been released from hospital.

It is unacceptable that humanitarian workers should face physical violence, intimidation, attacks and even death in their daily struggle to help the world's most vulnerable. Sadly, as the world's largest humanitarian agency WFP has, all too often, endured these challenges and more, much more, as a common workplace reality.

Over the past year 12 WFP staff, contractors and partner staff have been killed while working on the frontlines of hunger in Somalia, Sudan, Haiti, South Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire. Others were kidnapped, injured and traumatised by violence directed against them, their colleagues and their work.

The common thread that binds humanitarian heroes together is the desire to do something good for someone else.

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day - a chance to commemorate and hail the spirit that inspires people to reach out to help their fellow human beings. Let us add our voices to those from other humanitarian organisations and do something good for someone else. Visit http://www.whd-iwashere.org/ and add your friends and family to the nearly 250 million people who have already been reached with this message. Sign up to do something, no matter how small, for someone else.

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