World Humanitarian Day 2016, Action Against Hunger, Protect aid workers

World Humanitarian Day 2016: never give up, never forget

On World Humanitarian Day, we honour the courage of the men and women around the world who risk their lives in humanitarian service

By Jean-Michel Grand

Aug 19 2016

Yesterday I attended an emotional wreath laying ceremony at the Abbey of Westminster to honour those who have died in the service of humanitarianism and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian action across the globe. 

Today is World Humanitarian Day, a date we honour humanitarian workers risking their lives to help individuals facing some of the most critical situations possible. 

Every year an average of 200 humanitarian aid workers are either killed, kidnapped or wounded.

Often working in conflict areas or in the aftermath of natural disasters, facing some of the most stressful and hostile environments, where anything can happen at any time, humanitarian workers brave the unknown to serve others.

They are doers, working every day to improve the lives of those in need. They provide immediate assistance to people, not tomorrow or next year, but now. Time is the essence of their work. Sustainability, value for money and long term impact of assistance are all important considerations, but immediacy is what truly counts. When people have no clean water to drink, little to eat, no access to health care or have severely malnourished children to cure, they need urgent and lifesaving help. Front line humanitarian aid is about immediate survival, restoring dignity and hope.  

Acknowledgement and respect

In today's world, aid is becoming increasingly commodified; increasingly it is being conflated with the procurement and distribution of resources, and with the delivery of services. The dehumanisation of humanitarian work is profoundly disrespectful of the courage, commitment and dedication of aid workers worldwide. They do not expect to be treated like heroes, but they deserve acknowledgement and respect.  

In 2017 a memorial will be erected on London’s Southbank to honour humanitarian aid workers. I encourage all those who will walk past this memorial to think about aid workers as dedicated human beings who, in too many cases, paid the ultimate sacrifice to help people in need. I hope you will feel inspired by their actions in life.

Action Against Hunger have launched a campaign calling for more protection of aid workers, using the hashtag #protectaidworkers. I encourage you to join the conversation, and read the below paper for more information.  

Ensuring the Protection Aid Workers: Why a Special Mandate Holder is Necessary

My thoughts today are with the families of Andrefel Tenefrancia, Ibrahim Sani Issa, Moussa Ag Mohamedoun, Rombek Paul Mori, Latifa Hassan Zada, Massoma, Alla Yar, Agnes Dury and our 17 Sri Lankan colleagues who were assassinated in Muttur 10 years ago. All of them lost their lives while working with Action Against Hunger. 

We will never forget them.

Their legacy will survive.   

One Humanity

This World Humanitarian Day, we call for global solidarity and stand together with everyone affected by crisis. We unite as One Humanity, with a common responsibility to demand action to reach those furthest behind, and to support those who are most vulnerable and in need of assistance. And we reiterate our call today for the creation of a Special Rapporteur charged with monitoring the application of international humanitarian law worldwide.


Photo: Sami Silva for Action Against Hunger