On August 19, 2003, a suicide truck bomb exploded in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city. Twenty-two people died and more than 100 others were wounded in the attack. Most of those who perished were involved in humanitarian work. In their honor, the United Nations designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day.
“The United Nations designated August 19 as a day to honor the service and sacrifice of aid workers, including those who face threats and violence, as well as those who have paid the ultimate price,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power as part of last year’s observance. “Wherever natural disasters, violent conflicts, and other humanitarian crises tear societies apart and test the human spirit, aid workers are on the ground to save lives.”
Aid workers are guided by the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence. Their overarching goal is to help those who need help the most, traveling to places where disaster has struck to deliver the basic necessities of life.
“[H]umanitarians sometimes offer the only lifeline to those suffering,” said Samantha Power. “In Ukraine, aid workers from around the globe are facilitating access to food, water, and hygiene products for Ukrainians who continue to shelter as bombs target their homes and their communities.”
In 2021 alone, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs identified 235 million people in 34 countries or regions in need. And year by year, this number continues to grow.
The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought on record. Humanitarian aid workers are providing food, cash and medical assistance as seasonal rains fail, crops and cattle die, and water sources dry up.
And in Yemen, where the world’s largest humanitarian crisis continues to unfold, some 13 million people depend on humanitarian workers for life-saving help.
Humanitarian work is vitally important, but it is also dangerous. Last year alone, 115 aid workers were killed, 139 were injured and 185 were kidnapped. Today, the most dangerous place for humanitarian workers is South Sudan followed by Haiti and Ukraine.
On August 19, “we pay tribute to aid workers who work tirelessly under the most challenging circumstances, and we pay special tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty,” said USAID Administrator Power. “We recognize the tremendous service of USAID’s humanitarians and our many partners, and we express our gratitude to all aid workers worldwide for their courage and dedication.”