World Humanitarian Day has been celebrated by over 40 countries worldwide on 19 August since 2009. The day was chosen to commemorate the death of 22 humanitarian workers who, in 2003, were killed when the UN Office in Iraq was bombed.
Among those killed was Sergio Viera de Mello, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq. His widow, who set up the Sergio Viera de Mello Foundation, fought for 19 August to be recognised as World Humanitarian Day.
This was agreed by the UN General Assembly in December 2008, and first celebrated in 2009.
British humanitarian workers responding to crises
Over the past 12 months, British humanitarian workers from the Department for International Development have been working to help deliver UK aid in response to crises such as the Pakistan floods, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the displacement of people in Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia, and the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Secretary of State, Andrew MitchellSpeaking ahead of this year's World Humanitarian Day, Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell said, "Humanitarian workers are on the front line of the battle to save lives in the most horrendous circumstances. From famines to floods and conflicts to earthquakes, humanitarian workers around the world risk their own safety to help others on a daily basis.
"World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to reflect on the courage and bravery of those helping people in the most desperate circumstances.
"It is also a day to recognise and take pride in the excellent work of British humanitarian experts who are in the Horn of Africa today helping millions of people facing starvation." Honouring those who have been killed or injured
World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity not only to recognise the outstanding work humanitarian workers do, but also to honour those who have been killed or injured whilst working.
In the last decade, over 700 humanitarian workers have lost their lives and many more have been injured and kidnapped, yet workers still risk their lives in dangerous places such as Sudan and Afghanistan every day whilst delivering aid to those most in need.
Humanitarian workers deliver vital assistance, in the form of food, water, shelter, medical care and other necessities in places torn apart by conflict and man-made or natural disasters. More and more they are being challenged to deliver aid in such a way that it builds resilience to future disasters: to intervene earlier before people sell their assets to survive, to deliver cash and vouchers instead of food aid, and to start building back livelihoods immediately after the emergency as part of the response.
World Humanitarian Day aims to increase public awareness of this humanitarian assistance worldwide. Follow the links below to find out more about DFID's humanitarian work around the world.