World Humanitarian Day

Next Monday, 19 August 2024

World Humanitarian Day is a United Nations holiday observed every year on August 19. It is a day to honor humanitarian personnel and recognize their efforts as aid workers during humanitarian world crises. 

It is also a day to remember those who lost their lives in humanitarian missions. This day’s purpose is to raise awareness about the crucial humanitarian work that is happening around the world, and how important it is that all countries come together to assist those in need during harder times. 

UN humanitarian Worker helping refugees
 UN humanitarian Worker helping refugees in Cameroon. Image by UN Women (CC 2.0, unedited)

Humanitarian Work

Humanitarian Aides provide short-term logistical and material assistance to people who have been affected by natural disasters, famine, and wars. The goals of humanitarian work are firstly to save lives, help those who are suffering, and maintain human dignity. 

Humanitarian help is provided by local or international organizations that help millions of people around the world. The lives of these people very often depend on humanitarian workers. 

Humanitarian work is as crucial as it is dangerous, and many humanitarians risk their lives while providing help to those in need. 

History of World Humanitarian Day

The date was chosen to mark the tragic death of Sergio Viera de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq. During the bombing of the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003, Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues tragically lost their lives. 

Vieira de Mello had been a humanitarian worker for the United Nations for over 30 years. He had served in many challenging humanitarian crises across the world, helping victims of wars, raising awareness of their situations, and giving them a voice. He was a well-respected humanitarian leader, and the loss of his life shocked and upset many people.

In 2006, his family and friends created the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation with the aim of continuing his legacy of humanitarian aid work. The foundation also promotes dialogue between communities divided by conflict, so that peaceful resolutions can be achieved. 

The Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation campaigned to make August 19 a day to honor Vieira de Mello, his colleagues, and ongoing humanitarian work. The idea received a lot of international support and so a resolution was made, co-sponsored by the Brazilian, French, Swiss, and Japanese governments. In December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly officially established August 19 as World Humanitarian Day, and it was observed for the first time in 2009. 

Observance of World Humanitarian Day

Many organizations host events and distribute material with information about humanitarian work to make the public aware of the many crises happening around the globe and those risking their lives to make a difference. 

As with most UN special days, World Humanitarian Day has a different theme every year. In 2011 the theme was People Helping People, and it encouraged everyone to take part in aid work. The 2012 theme was I Was Here, and inspired people to do something good for others. That particular campaign was helped by singer Beyoncé, who made a music video for the theme, with the same name. 

The theme for 2022 was ‘It Takes a Village’. Inspired by the popular saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, the 2022 campaign stresses the importance of humanitarian workers as a collective force who devote themselves to helping others in crisis. 

If you'd like to get more involved with humanitarian work, there's no need to travel across the world to do so. Many people start by helping those in need in their own community. You can also show your support by donating to the international organizations that are doing the work in affected countries. The United Nations website is a great resource for those who want to help.

Growing Need for Humanitarian Aid

  • According to the latest statistical reports, one in three women above the age of 15 or around 736 million women globally have faced some kind of violence from either their partners or non-partners.
  • As of mid-2022, around 103 million people all over the world suffered losses and had to flee from their homes due to ongoing wars and conflicts. 
  • Child marriage is another critical issue that has been growing rapidly. As of 2022, every year, around 12 million girls get married before reaching the age of 18 globally.
  • Hunger and malnutrition have also enveloped the world at an alarmingly dangerous rate. As of 2023, over 345 million people suffer from a high rate of hunger. It has exceeded double the amount since 2020.
  • The latest report by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters states that natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, drought, and so on are responsible for the death of 68000 people every year. 
World Humanitarian Day
World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day - Next years

Tuesday, 19 August 2025

Wednesday, 19 August 2026

Thursday, 19 August 2027

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