People helping people: World Humanitarian Day 2011

News and Press Release
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(New York, 19 August 2011) Today the United Nations is marking the third World Humanitarian Day at events worldwide. This year’s theme is ‘people helping people’. As aid agencies scale up help for the millions of people in dire need across the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, and as donors and the public continue to give generously, this is an opportunity to reflect on the life-saving work aid workers do, often in dangerous environments in their own community or far from home.

In a ceremony at the General Assembly hall, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s agency, UNICEF, spoke of the work of colleagues and fellow aid workers.

“World Humanitarian Day is a celebration of men and women around the world who have decided to dedicate their lives to helping others, no matter who they are, where they are from, or what they believe,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. "Of course, our eyes and hearts are fixed on the people of the Horn of Africa. World Humanitarian Day should prompt all partners to give – and give more – to end the suffering.”

Remembering colleagues who have given their lives to bring help and hope to those who are most desperate, Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos noted, “It is also about their legacy. To honour them and stay true to our values, we must always do all we can to help the people most in need. Today, that means reaching the millions of people who are suffering in the Horn of Africa.”

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “We commemorate today the contributions of both our international staff and, in particular, our national staff, who work not only for the children in their own countries, but for the future of their nations. We owe them a special debt of gratitude. Nowhere is this more true than in the Horn of Africa, where we face a human disaster becoming a human catastrophe. It is always the children – the most vulnerable – who suffer the most. This is a children’s crisis.”

The day is as much a celebration of life and hope as it is of hardship and crisis.

In partnership with acclaimed music producer Jerry Wonda, the UN presented the song 'If I Could Change', featuring contributing artists from around the world, and an accompanying video that celebrates the aspirations of humanitarian workers everywhere and supports the UN Citizen’s Ambassador Contest. The singer Beyoncé has also dedicated a song and video to World Humanitarian Day.

On World Humanitarian Day, Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme said, “I am humbled whenever I meet these heroic men and women. Humanitarian workers risk their lives in many places all over the world just trying to make sure that a hungry child can get a meal, that a young mother can feed her family displaced by a flood, that an old man in a refugee camp gets some food after fleeing war. They are away from their families often for a very long time, dedicating their lives to fighting hunger and extreme poverty.” She added, “The crisis in the Horn of Africa where WFP will feed more than 11 million people is the perfect example of the amazing work they do.”

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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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