19 August 2014

Gambia: Today is World Humanitarian Day

editorial

Every year on 19 August, World Humanitarian Day is observed in memory of the victims of the attack on the United Nations' headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, which caused the deaths of 22 people, including the UN Special Representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, has made the following statement:

"World Humanitarian Day is an occasion to pay tribute to the people, who risk their lives every day to help the victims of war and disasters around the world. It is also an opportunity to highlight the huge humanitarian challenges that the world is facing.

For humanitarian workers, it is no longer business as usual.

The number of wars is rising and so is the nature of conflict. Across Syria and now Iraq, there is a vast zone of fighting in which civilians are suffering day in, day out, with no end in sight. Across Africa, from Mali in the West to Somalia in the East, stretching across Northern Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, there are millions of civilians squeezed inside a belt of conflict, fuelled by ethnic and religious hatred. To bring relief and assistance to civilians in places like these is becoming more and more difficult.

It is also becoming more and more dangerous for humanitarian workers to do their jobs. The number of attacks against them has quadrupled since 2003. Last year alone, twelve humanitarian workers were killed on average every month and more than ten were kidnapped. And every week, three humanitarians were attacked and wounded.

These are horrific numbers, especially at a time when humanitarian work is more essential than ever. With the combined impact of climate change, rapid population growth in places, likes the Sahel and extremism, we will see more conflict, more hunger, more people forced to move, out of sheer despair.

We live in a world of enormous fragility and we need to focus more on the challenges we face: for the sake of the victims of war and disasters, and also for the sake of the brave men and women, who put their lives on the line to help them".

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